A talented surgeon who had many choices about the field he would specialize in, Dr. Matt Apel ultimately opted for bariatrics because of the life-altering differences he could make for patients who are actually excited to work with him.
If Dr. Apel ever loses sight of his purpose as a surgeon at LasVegas’ Blossom Bariatrics, all he has to do is scroll through the dozens of emails and letters sent to him by thankful people who were able to regain their lives.
“There are few things in life that literally alter one’s course in life,” Dr. Apel said of his surgical work at Blossom Bariatrics, an outpatient center in LasVegas that caters to traveling patients seeking solutions to their weight-loss issues. “For the most part, people are on a path and the path can sway to and fro, but there are few things where a surgical event can put you on a completely different path. You go from a sedentary lifestyle where everything hurts and you can’t do much and you are ticking time bomb in terms of when you are going to go because of your co-morbidities to a place where you’re losing the weight, you’re back in the workplace, you’re living your life and you are enjoying things again. It really changes the outlook of one’s life from the minute they get the procedure done and onward and that’s what drives me.”
Dr. Apel is a driving force on a surgical team at Blossom Bariatrics that worked with approximately 1,500 patients last year. The LasVegas-based surgical center is disrupting a bariatrics industry that saw 256,000 bariatric procedures performed in 2019 — up dramatically from the approximately 158,000 procedures in 2011, according to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
Gone are the days when bariatric surgeries required large incisions on the patient’s body, hospital stays of multiple weeks and exhaustive physical tolls from the surgical procedure. Also, medical advancements have helped reduce the mortality dangers — both during procedures and afterward when infections post-op complications were previously major concerns.
Whereas past experiences often required patients to spend six to nine months of consultation with doctors over several visits and to follow strict guidelines against gaining additional weight, Blossom Bariatrics has managed to streamline the process to reduce the amount of time, expense and stress for the patient. For example, many of Blossom Bariatrics’ patients can transition from consultations, to surgery to recovery in as little as five days now.
One of the most transformative advancements has been with “sleeve” procedures, such as Blossom Bariatrics’ patented “Safe Sleeve” surgery — a procedure that is done laparoscopically and on an outpatient basis. With the advent of gastric sleeve, turbo sleeve and “Safe Sleeve” procedures — ones that drastically reduce the size of the stomach to limit food intake and hunger sensations — those types of surgeries comprised 59.4% of bariatric procedures in 2019, up dramatically from 17.8% in 2011.
“The message we’re trying to get out there is that when people thought about bariatric surgery in the past, it was big incisions and gastric bypass,’’ Dr. Apel said. “Now, the sleeve is the new kid on the block and has really made a difference in terms of the safety profile and it’s equally effective.
“As a result of the enhanced recovery protocols and our approach to the stomach, we’re able to get people in and out and get them back to their normal lives and get them back losing weight with little disruption and likelihood of a complication as possible,” added Dr. Apel, who strongly recommends to patients that they never go outside of the U.S. for any sort of medical procedure. “We’ve really streamlined the process and, as a result, we’re able to help more people and improve the price point.”
For a reminder of the life-changing work he is doing, Dr. Apel need only to look back at some of the success stories that he’s been a part of through the years. Kelly went from 279 pounds to 179 with the Safe Sleeve procedure in 2016, while Bryanna incredibly dropped 237 pounds following the SIPS procedure in 2016. Adesko went from 400 pounds to 234 pounds in April of 2017 by getting the Safe Sleeve procedure performed and Patti lost 128 pounds following a similar surgery.
“We’re helping individuals, helping families, helping communities and helping the U.S. population at large,’’ said Dr. Apel, who regularly performs six to seven surgical procedures a day. “You’re helping someone’s overall health, you’re helping them look better, feel better and you’re helping them with their mental health.
“My patients, they’re excited to have the surgery and this is something they look forward to from the point that they commit to it,’’ he added. “It’s a great feeling to come to work and to be around people who are equally excited to be there. Most people aren’t excited to get surgery, but here our patients are thrilled to be there even though it’s a surgery.”