The American College of Surgeons has renewed UC Irvine Medical Center’s accreditation as a Level 1 bariatric center, the college’s highest designation.

This means that UC Irvine fulfills the essential criteria established by ACS to ensure it’s fully capable of supporting a bariatric surgery program and that its institutional performance meets the requirements outlined by the ACS Bariatric Surgery Center Network Accreditation Program.

“Renewed accreditation demonstrates UCI’s ongoing commitment to providing the highest quality of care for its bariatric surgery patients,” said Dr. Ninh T. Nguyen, UC Irvine’s chief of gastrointestinal surgery. “With the increase in bariatric surgeries in the past 10 years across the country, it’s important that patients know we exceed national standards.”

Nguyen, current chairman of the ACS Bariatric Surgery Center Network, is a recognized leader in U.S. bariatric surgery. He has pioneered minimally invasive procedures for gastrointestinal surgery and conducted numerous studies of bariatric surgery. In 2009, Nguyen led a groundbreaking study that compared the results of minimally invasive gastric bypass and gastric banding. Another study examined whether Medicare standards for bariatric surgery improved patient outcomes.

The UCI team specializes in minimally invasive laparoscopic approaches to bariatric surgery, including the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and gastric banding techniques.

Currently, UC Irvine Medical Center is one of just three bariatric surgery centers in California to hold the ACS’s highest designation and participate in its National Surgical Quality Improvement Program. UCI was originally accredited in 2007.

More than 11 million people in the U.S. are severely obese, and the numbers continue to rise. Obesity is a health risk because of the conditions commonly associated with it, such as type II diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Currently, weight-loss surgery provides the only effective, lasting relief from severe obesity.

The ACS launched its Bariatric Surgery Center Network Accreditation Program in 2005 to extend its established quality improvement practices to that discipline. Accredited bariatric surgery centers provide the hospital resources necessary for optimal care of morbidly obese patients as well as the support and resources necessary to address the entire spectrum of bariatric patient needs, from the pre-hospital phase through the postoperative care and treatment process.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has recognized UCI and allows expanded Medicare coverage of bariatric surgery for beneficiaries of all ages who’ve been diagnosed with obesity-related health problems. Medicare coverage is limited to procedures performed in facilities certified by the ACS or the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery.

About the American College of Surgeons: A scientific and educational association of surgeons, the American College of Surgeons was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical education and practice and to improve the care of surgical patients. Its achievements have placed the ACS at the forefront of American surgery and made it an important advocate for surgical patients. With more than 77,000 members, the college is the largest organization of surgeons in the world.

About UC Irvine Medical Center: Orange County’s only university research hospital, Level I trauma center, American College of Surgeons-verified regional burn center and National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, UC Irvine Medical Center offers acute- and general-care services at its new 482,000-square-foot UC Irvine Douglas Hospital. U.S. News & World Report has included UCI for 10 consecutive years on its list of America’s Best Hospitals, giving special recognition to its urology, gynecology and ear, nose & throat programs.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.9 billion. For more UCI news, visit