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Read Original Story

Cutting the fat–without incisions: New weight-loss surgery

Rating

2 Star

Cutting the fat–without incisions: New weight-loss surgery

Our Review Summary

The segment reports on a novel approach to weight loss surgery that is incision-less. The procedure itself is apparently still under development and investigation. There was no indication of when it would be available or why it’s not yet available. The reporter does a lot of hand waving about the evidence for benefit with this procedure… it was called "remarkable" and "exciting" and noted to have fewer complications than other procedures, but no specific information was given about its impact on body weight, health, or risk of complications, including death. Perhaps these data aren’t yet available? If so, it’s worth emphasizing that this procedure is still experimental and needs more study to know if it is safe and truly effective. It is novel to have a weight loss procedure that is incision-less, but incision-less doesn’t mean "without risk" especially in this patient population. Overall, the story suggests that this is a risk-free way to lose weight and the only down-side is the cost — clearly this is not true and is a mis-representation of the risks involved in general anesthesia for any patient with severe obesity.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

One good thing about the piece:  it acknowledged cost, stated that the cost was uncertain yet, but put it in the context of gastric band procedure – "about $13,000 to $20,000." 

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Unbelievably unhelpful.  The story says "Although there have been some complications, doctors say overall, the incisionless surgery is less painful and safer."  What exactly ae the complications?  You can’t wave them off like that without any details.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

No clear data – only confusing comments.  Early in the piece the reporter calls the results "exciting" and "remarkable." 

But later she says, "The results aren’t quite as good as gastric bypass patients, but about the same result as the gastric band and with no cutting." 

Viewers want to know:  How much weight loss can be expected.  Where does the data come from?  What’s the quality of the evidence? 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No overt disease-mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

Only one physician-user was interviewed in the segment.  Where is the independent analysis of this approach?

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

An incomplete comparison of this new approach with existing weight loss surgical procedures – incomplete largely because there is no data – no evidence – presented. 

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story says "If all goes well, about a year and a half from now, this may end up being the most popular surgical way for obese Americans to lose weight."  Huh?  On what basis is that a year and a half prediction made?  On the word of the surgical innovators?  

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

We suppose the segment tried to establish the novelty of this particular surgical approach.  But are they going to give network airtime to every new weight surgery approach?

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure of the extent to which the story may have been influenced by a news release. We do know it profiled just one prized patient at just one medical center.

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory

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