St. Luke's University Health Network


    • St Lukes Surgeons First to Perform Unique Weight-Loss Surgery Procedure

St Lukes Surgeons First to Perform Unique Weight-Loss Surgery Procedure

St. Luke's Surgeons First to Perform Unique Weight-Loss Surgery Procedure in Our Region

Patient Benefits from Minimally Invasive Procedure

Dr. Maher El Chaar

Allentown, PA (10/11/2013) – For many brides, the fear of fitting into their dream wedding gown can be terrifying. Alterations ensue, waistlines are taken out, corsets stretched to the max. However, for Jennifer Howell of Center Valley, alterations are a good problem to have.

Nearly 200 pounds lighter after weight loss surgery at St. Luke's University Health Network – Allentown Campus, this bride-to-be will need to shrink her dress to fit her new, smaller frame.

“It's amazing. I feel great, like I've taken my life back,” states Howell, 41, who will tie the knot with fiancé, Jim Hammond in January of next year. “It is definitely a big change and a learning process, but I have no regrets.”

Howell was the first patient in our region to receive a minimally invasive surgical procedure known as bilio-pancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (BPD/DS). The procedure was performed laparoscopically by co-medical director of Bariatric Surgery for St. Luke's, Maher El Chaar, MD, FACS, FASMBS with the assistance of co-medical director Leonardo Claros, MD, FACS, FASMBS.

Laparoscopic Procedure Reduced Recovery Time and Improved Quality of Care 

“Jennifer's surgery was unique in that this particular procedure is typically done with a very large, open incision,” said Dr. El Chaar. “By performing the operation laparoscopically, we were able to reduce her recovery time and improve the quality of her care.”

While most weight loss surgeries are already minimally invasive, BPD/DS is a unique procedure typically performed on extremely morbidly obese patients, those with a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 50. St. Luke's Bariatric Services is the first program in our area to offer this classically “open” surgical procedure in a minimally invasive way, combining the benefits of a traditional sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass procedures.

“In addition to being a very safe procedure, this method is often very successful in terms of weight loss for the patients. The results exceed that of traditional gastric bypass,” states Dr. El Chaar.

Since her weight loss, Howell has been able to do and participate in activities that once felt like a chore. “I have two step-children and a dog. We are always on the go, walking and being active. I actually enjoy shopping now, whereas before it was exhausting,” she says.

Increased Health Benefits

She is also grateful for the increase health benefits she has gained as a result of the surgery. “I had high-blood pressure, which is now gone,” she states. “I lost both of my parents last year at a young age, and I vowed to make myself healthier.”

“I certainly can't go back to eating quarter-pounders with fries and a coke!” she jokes. A big part of weight loss surgery involves learning what your body will and will not be able to handle nutritionally. The Bariatric Services team at St. Luke's offers counseling, support groups, an online forum and other services to help patients through the process.

St. Luke's Supports Patients from Surgery and Beyond

“We are a comprehensive center and the patient's journey does not end with surgery, it is just the beginning,” states bariatric services director, Maureen Miletics RN, BSN, MS, CBN. “This is a life changing decision and we are there for our patients every step of the way.”

Howell could not agree more. “The support has been amazing. I am so glad I came to St. Luke's and Dr. El Chaar. I love that man – he saved my life.”

St. Luke's Bariatric Services program is national recognized as an accredited center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and offers patients outstanding quality and safety outcomes, as well as, a comprehensive program of care from the initial consult to ongoing follow-up and support. For more information on whether weight loss surgery is right for you, visit or call 1-866-STLUKES.


Denise Rader
Director, Marketing & Public Relations

Kate Raymond
Marketing & Public Relations

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