A California plastic surgeon is performing what may well be the most bizarre, and punishing, weight-loss procedure short of an outright limb amputation: tongue patches.
Since 2009, Dr. Nikolas Chugay has been suturing stamp-size patches of Marlex mesh to patients’ tongues.
The patch makes it painful to eat anything solid. The patient leaves it in place for a month or so — or less, if it becomes unbearable — while subsisting on an 800-calorie-a-day protein shake diet provided by Chugay.
The doctor and his son, Paul, also a doctor, say on their website that they have done this procedure more than 150 times. Patients typically lose around 20 pounds, and have flown in from around the country for the $2,000 procedure.
It’s off-label, non-FDA-approved, and hardly fool-proof, Paul concedes to The Post.
“From time to time, patients relapse and chew on a Big Mac or fries on the side of their mouth” while wearing the patch, he said.
Roughly one in 10 will suffer from loosened stitches or prolonged difficulty with speech, the Chugays reported in a 2014, non-peer-reviewed article in the American Journal of Cosmetic Surgery.
And once the patch, and the weight, come off, it’s up to the patient to maintain their new physique through diet and exercise. The tongue patch can only jump-start their healthier life.
“Patients need to be committed and dedicated to losing weight and not go back to McDonald’s,” Paul noted.
Still, it’s far less invasive, far more easily reversed, and far less prone to complications than other weight loss surgeries, such as gastric bypass or gastric stapling.
“It really boosted my self-esteem and it pushed me to accomplish my goals,” said Erica Renteria, who had a tongue patch sewn in some five years ago.
Her patch required some maintenance.
“You have to use a toothpick brush to brush your teeth and be careful. You need to rinse also because your mouth can get dry. The only thing is you can’t really make out,” she said.
Renteria claims it was worth it, though she is hardly an objective source.
She works for the Chugays as an administrative assistance, but was the only patient the Chugays would refer to The Post.
“Overall, I became a happy person and now I get to wear a pretty dress and look good,” she said.
Renteria said she’s weighed as much as 200 pounds in the past, but since the tongue patch has been able to maintain her weight at 150 pounds.
“Today I saw a patient, one month out and she lost 28 pounds,” Paul told The Post recently.
“Her blood pressure is down. She came in with 190/90 … and now her blood pressure is 135/80. She is 70 years old and has seen a huge change in her life and is off to Israel.”