She Floats Like a Butterfly, Too

Khaliah Ali after weight loss surgery
Khaliah Ali after weight loss surgery.

Drs. Fielding and Ren hold lap-band surgical weightloss device, an alternative to gastro bypass and stomach stapling
Drs. Fielding and Ren hold the gastric band surgical weightloss device that is changing the lives of thousands of obese patients at NYU Medical Center.

Khaliah Ali, daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, says her bout with obesity began in childhood. But the successful plus-size model and fashion designer was determined not to be a heavyweight.

In August 2004 she underwent bariatric surgery at NYU Medical Center, having a silicon, ring-shaped device called a gastric band installed around the top portion of her stomach. As shown here six months later, she's well on her way to championship condition.

Bariatric Surgery Rated First in U.S.

When people try to shed pounds, they tend to focus on the width of their waists. But when bariatric surgeons at NYU Medical Center help the morbidly obese take control of their weight, they are more concerned with the width of their patients' stomach openings. Using a device called a Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Band, or gastric band for short, the doctors reduce the size of the opening. By restricting the amount of food that can enter, the gastric band tricks the stomach into feeling full, so the patient eats much less and drops excess weight at a healthy rate.

The gastric band device received Food and Drug Administration approval for use in the United States in 2001. Since then, the NYU Program for Surgical Weight Loss has become a leader in the surgical procedure to install the silicon ring device around the upper portion of patients' stomachs. In a national ranking of major teaching hospitals, The University Healthcare Consortium recently named the NYU program Best Performer in Bariatric Surgery.

TThe program is headed by Christine Ren, Fielding M.D., Professor of Surgery, and George Fielding, M.D., Associate Professor of Surgery, who recently joined NYU from Wesley Hospital in Brisbane, Australia. The doctors are the world's most experienced surgeons with the gastric band procedure. Dr. Fielding not only developed the technique that is presently used to implant the gastric band, but is himself a former patient. The deceptively simple-looking gastric band—resembling a piece of calamari in both shape and texture—has transformed the lives of over a thousand NYU patients, among them Kahliah Ali, Muhammad Ali's daughter.

The gastric band procedure, says Dr. Fielding, is quickly replacing the previous standard: gastric bypass, in which the surgeon makes a large incision across the abdomen, then cuts away the stomach and reshapes a piece of it into a small pouch. In the gastric band procedure, the surgeon uses incisions just a few inches across, and the stomach is not cut. The advantage, explains Dr. Ren-Fielding is that the gastric banding procedure is reversible, adjustable, safer, has a shorter recovery period, and does not have the risk of nutritional deficits associated with gastric bypass.

Gastric banding, unlike gastric bypass, is also considered safe for severely obese adolescents. Dr. Fielding is beginning to perform this surgery on overweight teenagers with associated major health problems. Adolescent patients will first undergo assessment by the NYU Child Study Center, and their bariatric care will be performed in collaboration with Evan Nadler, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatric Surgery and Director of Minimally Invasive Pediatric Surgery.