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Weight Loss

Bariatric Surgery

Our Mission is Your Success
Our mission is to provide support to those committed to a healthier lifestyle and improved quality of life through medical and surgical treatment of obesity. When all other methods of weight loss have failed, surgery may be the best option. Bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, has proven effective for reducing obesity.

Losing weight provides numerous benefits for physical, mental and emotional well-being. A healthy weight enables a more active lifestyle, and can also be effective in treating conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular disease and arthritis.

Patients need to meet specific qualifications regarding weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), and health issues to be eligible for these procedures.

The CHI St. Alexius Surgical Weight Loss Program
Losing weight through bariatric procedures involves more than surgery. It requires changing your life by changing your lifestyle. That's why Dr. Brandon Helbling and CHI St. Alexius Health have partnered to form the CHI St. Alexius Surgical Weight Loss Program, the most comprehensive weight loss surgery program this region has to offer.

In addition to experienced, board-certified surgeons, our complete bariatric services include experts ranging from licensed registered dietitians and financial advisors, along with online education and supportive post-operative programs designed with you AND your family in mind.

We also have a coordinator who works with you and your primary care doctor through the entire process to ensure that your care is tailored to your individual needs to help you achieve optimum results.

For more information about bariatric surgery watch these Treat Your Obesity whiteboard videos from the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).


Obesity Defined
A life-long, progressive, life threatening, genetically-related, costly, multi-factorial disease of excess fat storage with multiple co-morbities (obesity related health conditions).

Magnitude of the ProblemHeight Weight Chart

  • 65% of Americans are overweight 
  • 6 to 10 million Americans are more than 100 pounds overweight
  • It can reduce a person's life expectancy by 20 years
  • It is the second leading cause of preventable death in America killing 300,000 annually

Morbid Obesity Defined
Clinically severe obesity at which point serious medical conditions occur as a direct result of the obesity (defined as greater than 200% of ideal weight, greater than 100 pounds overweight, or a body mass index greater than or equal to 40).

Obesity Related Co-Morbidities

  • Adult Onset Type II Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Cardiac disease
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Fatigue
  • Fatty Liver
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Hernia
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Hypertension
  • Infertility problems
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Premature death
  • Respiratory disease (sleep apnea)
  • Stress Incontinence
  • Venous Insufficiency

Body Mass Index
Calculated as follows:  (Weight ÷ Height2) x 703 = BMI 
To calculate your Body Mass Index, visit CDC-Body Mass Index.

Info Sessions Weight LossFree information sessions about weight loss surgery are conducted each Monday and Wednesday morning at 9:00AM at the Mid Dakota Main Clinic at 401 N. 9th Street.

Our Bariatric Clinical Coordinator will review specific information and a comparison of the three surgical weight loss options our program offers: Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass, LAP-BAND and Sleeve Gastrectomy. The Clinical Coordinator is also available to offer expertise regarding insurance and eligibility and can answer any questions you may have about the process from beginning to end.

Registration for information sessions is required.
Please call 530.6330, toll-free 800.472.2113 ext. 6330.

Roux en Y Gastric BypassAs the most researched and considered the "gold standard" in bariatric treatment, gastric bypass is routinely performed laparoscopically, which is minimally invasive.

It is routinely performed laparoscopically, which is minimally invasive. The procedure involves the cutting and stapling of the stomach and bowel, along with a bypass of a portion of the digestive tract.

The initial weight loss is rapid. Good long term weight loss is achieved through a combination of restriction of food intake capacity and a reduction of food absorption. As with all bariatric procedures, follow-up is essential to ensure proper nutrition.

Sleeve GastrectomyThis procedure reduces the stomach's volume and also eliminates the part of the stomach that produces the hormone that stimulates hunger. Approximately 85 percent of the stomach is removed, with the remaining stomach volume measuring around 2 to 5 ounces. Other than the reduction in volume, the stomach tends to function normally, so most foods can be consumed, but in small amounts.

Because this procedure doesn't involve intestinal bypass, it's a good option for people with existing conditions such as anemia or Crohn's disease. It can be performed laparoscopically on most patients, even those with a high BMI. After the initial weight loss, patients on the higher end of the BMI scale may need a second-stage procedure to lose the remaining weight.

Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric BandingIn this procedure, a small, hollow silicone band is placed around the upper part of the stomach. The band is filled with saline, with the amount adjusted to meet the needs of each individual. A port connected to the band allows for post-surgical adjustments as the patient's needs change.

The least invasive option, this procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis, and can be reversed. While the initial weight loss will not occur as rapidly as with a gastric bypass, long-term results tend to be similar to other procedures. Regular follow-ups help each patient achieve optimum results.

For more information visit Lap-Band System.

Bariatric NutritionOur Bariatric Nutrition Program is the only program in the area that includes both pre-operative and post-operative nutrition education. Our goal is to give you all of the tools to help you be the most successful with your bariatric surgery. All of the surgeries require lifestyle and behavior changes in the area of nutrition and physical activity. The surgery will help force you to make some behavior changes, but other changes will require a conscious effort on your part. Our nutrition team will help you determine which changes you will need to make as well as offer tips and suggestions to help you maximize your weight loss.

The pre-operative nutrition class will explain the pre and post surgery diet. We will discuss foods allowed and foods to avoid in order to reduce the risk of complications post-operatively. We will discuss the diet progression, required supplements and the basics of what your regular diet will eventually look like. This class will give you the opportunity to ask any questions or voice concerns regarding eating after surgery. You will be given detailed instructions to help you follow the diet progression pre and post surgery.

Post-operatively, you will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a licensed registered dietitian. In the class you will receive a binder with class notes, handouts, recipes and exercises. We will discuss calorie and protein needs, meal planning, dining out, food logs, exercise, and behavior modification strategies. The goal of this class is to provide you with all of the tools and information you need to be successful with weight loss long term following surgery.

For more information on other Nutrition services click here.

The PrimeCare Surgical Weight Loss Program team is dedicated to your weight loss success. It includes surgeons, nurses, a neuropsychologist, licensed registered dietitians, coordinators and support staff from Mid Dakota Clinic and CHI St. Alexius Health.


  • Surgeon
    Brandon Helbling, MD, FACS, FASMBS
  • Physician Assistant
    Kristen Scholl, PA-C
  • Bariatric Nurse Navigator
    Paula Lubale, RN
    800.472.2113 ext. 4754
  • Licensed Registered Dietitians
    Jenny Schmidt, RD, LRD, CDE 
    800.472.2113 ext. 4940


The PrimeCare Surgical Weight Loss Program has helped people live healthier lifestyles through medical and surgical treatment of obesity. These weight loss surgery success stories from our patients tell how they achieved long-term weight loss and are taking control of th

eir lives. Click any of the links below to read their remarkable and life-changing weight loss surgery stories.

Mike's Weight Loss Journey

Mike Before

Mike After

“I began my journey actually in 1999. I looked into numerous surgeons and just never felt comfortable. My weight was always an issue. I was like most people trying dieting and a nationally recognized program. When I met you guys, I knew instantly that I wanted to do it through the PrimeCare Surgical Weight Loss Program. I was treated more as a friend and you guys took personal interest in me. That has continued post op from over 1,000 miles away!

The entire process was amazing. I was lucky for sure. I was the first round acceptance. Jean (Bariatric Clinical Coordinator) and I discussed options and scheduled me for January 15, 2014. I was by myself the morning of the surgery. Your staff was amazing all the way, from check in to check out. I hate to say this but the process was FUN. The nurses were amazing and kept me laughing and again took personal interest. Not just in me but the well-being of my fiancée, Melanie, as well. This meant the world to me.

So for stats, I had been as high as 452 pounds. I am now 197.2 pounds and I guess maintaining. I am happy at this weight. My blood pressure went from borderline high to an average of 100/67. My pulse rate at rest went from 120 beats per minute to 52. My sugar went from a fasting 108 to 78.

As for lifestyle, Jessica (Bariatric Service Line Coordinator) and I have discussed many things. Shopping for clothing is awesome, except I never have enough money. When clothes look good, you want EVERYTHING. I bought my first wool pea coat this year. I wear jeans almost all the time now. Outdoor activities are something I love. I had quit doing most but now am back doing them at a higher level than ever. My energy levels are through the roof. I am living for the first time ever!”

Mike’s keys to success after weight loss surgery:

Water – “This is huge! I was a massive Mountain Dew drinker. I have read on many sites that proper hydration also helps the skin rebound. I bought a 24 ounce thermos hydration bottle that keeps ice cold for 14 hours. I found I drink more water if I keep it cold.”

Exercise – “I am not saying to sprint marathons or become a world class weight lifter, but to get up and move. Walk around and enjoy life. Take up golfing or another hobby that encourages movement and flexibility. Change your habits now!”

Portions – “After 14 months I still measure my food. It is my control thing but I do it. Don’t do anything that the staff says could stretch your pouch. I compare it to this: If you bought any tool of this value how would you treat it? Would you stretch it and beat it or try to break it before the new was off of it? No, you would protect it and value it. I love my pouch and treat it as such.

Thank you
“Thank you to all. I could not imagine having better results or being happier. This is a lifestyle at this point that I LOVE! Dr. Helbling, I personally thank you. You personally have made my life worth living again. You gave me this amazing tool. Every day it goes through my head not to disappoint you or your amazing staff. The care I was shown during the entire process was amazing. I cannot wait to see you again.”


Best Friends Get Weight Loss Surgery Together

Scales don't lie and neither does a true friendship. So seven months ago, when Lisa Reynolds and Dianne Pearson decided it was time to get serious about weight loss.

"Just one flight of steps, I'd be so out of breath that I couldn't even talk by the time I got up there," says weight loss surgery patient, Lisa Haman. The dynamic duo decided to get bariatric surgery done together.

"We ate together. That was something we did - a lot. We went out to eat. We would eat lots and drink lots. So this was something we decided to do together," says Haman.

"I would eat when I was bored, I would eat when I was stressed, I would eat when I was sad, I would eat when I was happy, I would eat when I was celebrating," says weight loss surgery patient, Diane Pierson. So when the two finally decided it was time, there was plenty of pre-procedure work they needed to go through.

"This is an operation to help you get healthy," says Dr. Brandon Helbling, CHI St. Alexius Health. "Being thin doesn't always mean that you're healthy. Being healthy means a well-balanced diet, exercising and making good lifestyle choices." So how does the surgery actually work? Well surgeons say they remove a big portion of the stomach and they actually resize it to shrink the organ down.

"So instead of the stomach being a big pouch that holds all the food, now we're shrinking it down into a small tube," says Dr. Helbling. By removing that part of the stomach, we're affecting the amount that it can hold so you get full faster, so that's one sensation that we feel. And that's exactly what has happened to Lisa and Dianne.

"We go from eating an appetizer, a huge plate of food, drinking several drinks with it, to we can eat a cup of food at the most in a sitting right now," says Haman.

"It's going to be a lifelong challenge that you have to deal with continually," says Dr. Helbling. And a challenge is right - especially at the beginning.

"You felt like you were full from just a drink of water," says Haman. "So, it's the hardest thing I've ever done."

So how are the two dealing with that challenge seven months out? "I feel much better," says Pierson. "I feel healthier, more active, I'm just happy to be where I'm at right now and when I look back, I don't like what I saw."

So sometimes when it's time for the body to go through something as life changing as weight loss surgery, it's a little easier to make weight with a buddy by your side.

Mark Charter, Reporting

Is weight loss surgery reversible?
Gastric Bypass - No.
Lap Band - Yes.
Sleeve Gastrectomy - No.

Is there guaranteed success?
No. These surgeries can be defeated by falling back into old patterns.

Will you take my gallbladder out when you do my surgery?
No. We do not remove healthy gallbladders. If you have evidence of stones or disease it will be removed.

What are the age limits for these surgery?
18 is the youngest. Patients as old as 65 have had these surgeries, however, all patients are individually considered.

When can I go back to work?
Based on the individual, procedure and type of work you do.

When can I drive?
When off of narcotic pain medication.

When can I exercise?
Walking is recommended in moderation immediately after surgery. 4-6 weeks for more intense exercise depending on which surgery you choose.

Can I drink alcohol?
We don't encourage alcohol consumption due to carbonation and intake of empty calories.

Am I going to have loose skin after I lose weight?
Probably. Reconstructive surgery may be an option for people who experience an excessive amount of loose skin.

We know that patients participating in weight loss surgery benefit from support received from many sources - including family, friends, physicians and the entire medical team. Also important is the support that patients get from others, who like themselves, have actually experienced weight loss surgery.

Studies have shown that bariatric patients who regularly attend support group meetings and follow up with their surgeon have the greatest long-term success. We offer a support group on the first Tuesday of each month with a variety of topics to help you on your weight loss journey. Topics include: snacking, portion control, holiday success, exercise, vitamins & supplements, reconstructive surgery and others. Locations are in Bismarck, Dickinson, Garrison, Harvey, Minot, Mobridge and Williston.

Join Certified Bariatric Support Group Leader, Jessica Miller, RN for these fun and informative sessions.

Am I qualified for weight loss surgery?
To qualify for surgery, a person must be at least 100 pounds overweight and have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater, or have a BMI of 35 or greater with two or more actively treated diseases related to obesity, such as diabetes, hypertension or arthritis.

Body Mass Index is calculated as follows:

To calculate your body mass index, visit the CDC - Body Mass Index.

Qualifying for surgery is a thorough process, with patients receiving a number of health assessments. Attendance at education classes is mandatory.

Will my insurance company pay for weight loss surgery?
When considering weight loss surgery, it is extremely important that you first check with your insurance company regarding eligibility and to determine if there are any exclusions in your policy. It is a good idea to have your Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated before making the call. If your insurance company will not pay for weight loss surgery, pre-pay options are available.




The Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program has designated St. Alexius Medical Center as a Comprehensive Bariatric Surgery Center. Dr. Brandon Helbling of Mid Dakota Clinic perform surgical weight loss procedures at this MBSAQIP-accredited center. Earning this designation signifes St. Alexius Medical Center's ability to consistently meet high standards of safe care for bariatric surgery patients.

Blue DistinctionCHI St. Alexius Health has been designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Bariatric Surgery® by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Designation as Blue Distinction Centers means this facility's overall experience and aggregate data met objective criteria established in collaboration with expert clinicians' and leading professional organizations' recommendations. Individual outcomes may vary. To find out which services are covered under your policy at any facilities, please call your local Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield Plan.
Your initial consultation is free.
For more information, contact the Bariatric Nurse Navigator at 701.712.4754, toll-free 800-472-2113 ext. 4754.
We're here to help click here.



To learn more about Weight Loss Services at a given location, see participating locations listed in the Facilities tab (below) and call for more information.