By Jake DietschMore than 400 Australians a week are going under the knife to lose weight, but it’s not lap bands slimming them down. “Sleeves”, an operation in which part of the stomach is removed, is now the go-to surgical procedure for some 80 per cent of WA patients seeking medical intervention while battling the bulge. “Within the next five years’, no one will be doing (lap)bands in Australia,” Dr Leon Cohen, surgeon at Mercy Bariatrics in Mount Lawley, says. He claims there has been a “dramatic” decline in the number of lap band surgeries in the past few years, as patients turn to the more permanent “sleeve’’ alternative. Medicare says 4,090 West Australians had weight loss operations in 2015-16, compared with 3,019 in 2013-14. “In WA, we’ve grown from five or six practices, to about 10 or 12, in the past five years,” Dr Cohen says. Among the most recent patients is Perth’s Van Heereden family who lost a combined 150kg. The mother, father and son underwent lap band surgery between 2009 and 2013 and mum, Sonia, says it has changed their lives. The waiting lists for surgery has “blown out completely’’, says co-owner of clinic Bariatric Medicine Integrated Joondalup, Dr Anton Kruger. “Our waitlist is now about six months to get any surgery done,” Dr Kruger says. “We’ve only been operating in this clinic for about four years, but it’s definitely increased. With the obesity epidemic there’s an increasing need for it.” Dr Cohen believes weight-loss procedures should be performed at younger ages. “By far the majority [of patients] are beyond 20, but I think we should be operating on adolescents and I’ve done patients as young as 14,” Dr Cohen says. But this is not a view shared by the fitness industry. Personal trainer Cameron Leaning says weight loss surgery is only appropriate in “extreme” cases. “People are getting lazier and they want a quick fix. Persistence is key,” Cameron says.