No question that celebrity success stories have helped popularize gastric-bypass surgery, known as stomach stapling. The number of these procedures in the U.S. soared from 63,000 in 2002 to perhaps 100,000 this year. But there are real dangers associated with the operation--ranging from suture tears and leaks to pulmonary embolisms, pneumonia and infection--and these risks seem to be highest among those who need it most, the extremely obese (more than 100 lbs. overweight). That's the conclusion of a study of 335 patients, two of whom died. "This should not be considered a cosmetic procedure," warns lead author Dr. Elmar Merkle of Duke University. "It should be the last option we can offer."
--By David Bjerklie