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Tongue patch

Tongue patch surgery blasted as an unethical procedure

Procedure can cost up to US$2,000

A patch that is sewn onto the tongue that makes chewing solid food so painful patients have to drink a liquid diet (thus leading to weight loss) has been blasted by critics.

"Basically, this is a sham, an unethical procedure," said Dr Richard Chaffoo, a California plastic surgeon with certifications from the American Board of Plastic Surgery, American Board of Otolaryngology, and American Board of Facial and Plastic Reconstructive Surgery, told Yahoo! Shine in an interview. "With any kind of thing you put in there and suture into the tongue, you run the risk of getting an infection. You're going to be drooling a lot, it's going to be really painful. Anything that's in there that shouldn't be there is going to rub the surface raw. You could get an ulcer, an infection. It could dislodge and go down your throat and cause an airway obstruction."

The abrasive plastic tongue patch is made from marlex, a plastic that is commonly used as mesh to repair hernias, costs US$2,000 and is sewn onto the tongue with six stitches and removed after a month so that it does not become incorporated into the tongue. The patch has been reported to help people lose 14kg in a month.

"It seems a very extreme way to go about losing weight; and does very little in the way of helping a person make lifestyle changes that can be sustained over the long term," Blythe O'Hara, University of Sydney, Australia, told the Sydney Morning Herald. “"I would be most interested to see if there were any studies that have been undertaken assessing the effectiveness of such surgery, and honestly would prefer people needing help to lose weight spend their money on getting assistance from professionals who can educate and support them in making lifestyle changes both now and in the future," she said.

The first procedure was performed in 2009 and since some 60 people have had the patch, whilst in Venezuela it is has proved much more popular with some 900 Venezuelan women having the treatment.

Dr Nikolas Chugay

“The reversible procedure makes chewing of solid foods very difficult and painful, limiting the patient to a liquid diet", said the Dr Nikolas Chugay, who created the patch, from the Chugay Cosmetic Surgery Medical Clinic Inc. in Beverly Hills. "We found a niche. We wanted to offer patients something effective without resorting to the risks of invasive surgery."

Patients may experience swelling of the tongue and difficulty with speech after getting the patch, and some patients have trouble sleeping and difficulty moving their tongue at all following the procedure.

“It’s a much safer procedure than a lap-band procedure," said Chugay. "It doesn’t carry the tremendous complications that are involved with something like a lap band. Patients get to their work the same day after the tongue patch.”

Following the procedure, Chugay provides an 'easy to follow' liquid diet of 800 calories a day, which 'fulfils nutritional needs' and 'maximises weight loss results', according to his website.

"The aim is to change the way you eat, not to stop eating," Dr Leon Massage, weight loss specialist at the Body Metabolism Institute, told MSN. "You need to change the way you look at food, if you look at junk food as something that is a food that you can't resist and you look at salads and soups as rabbit food, you will never succeed. It will always be about pain and self-denial," he said.

"You need to learn about some of your addictive behaviours that keep you coming back to do the same silly things each time,” added Massage. “Like always having popcorn and ice-cream at the movies because that's what you do every time you go to the movies."

The procedure is not approved by the FDA.

Editorial comment: was reluctant to publish this article. It was decided that as a news website for bariatric and metabolic professionals, we should publish the article to bring the procedure to the attention of the medical community so they could advise patients where necessary.

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