Rosie O’Donnell’s Sleeve: A Tool, Not a Cure

Rosie O’Donnell revealed at a luncheon Friday for the American Heart Association that she had gastric sleeve surgery due to health concerns following a 2012 heart attack. “I did it to save my life,” she said. Her weight has dropped from 230 to 190 pounds since she had the procedure in July, 2013.

In 2011, O’Donnell survived what her doctors called a “widow-maker” heart attack. With support from her doctor, O’Donnell says she adopted a healthier diet and built more physical activity into her daily routine. Said her spokesperson, Cindi Berger, “She tried to lose weight, but it wasn’t working. It was a life-saving surgery. But it’s only a tool, not a cure.”

O’Donnell’s surgery has brought her BMI down from 36 to 29.8, just a hair under the threshold for obesity. Gastric sleeve procedures are relatively new compared to gastric bypass and gastric band procedures. But the sleeve has quickly surpassed the band in popularity, owing to a perception of better results with the sleeve.

A comparative effectiveness study of gastric bypass, gastric band, and gastric sleeve procedures published last year in the Annals of Surgery found that gastric sleeve procedures had lower rates of complications than gastric bypass, but higher rates than gastric bands. Likewise, they found that sleeve procedures offered better better effectiveness (in terms of excess weight lost) than bands, but not as good as bypasses.

More people who are more forthright about dealing with obesity as a straightforward matter of health is a good thing. Though people who have obesity surgery have a right to their privacy, when public figures put their experience out there in an honest way, it can only help to reduce stigma and bias.

Click here to read more in People, here to read more about the gastric sleeve procedure from the Obesity Action Coalition, and here to read the comparative effectiveness study of sleeve, band, and bypass procedures.

Rosie O’Donnell, photograph © Crow 911 / flickr

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