Gastric Stimulation - non surgical option for weight loss

Also known as ‘intragastric stimulation’: this is a highly innovative device which allows electrical signals to be transmitted to the brain to trigger feelings of fullness.

It has been tested in Europe and Canada and findings show that it can contribute to weight loss although not to the same capacity as the various obesity surgery procedures.

What is gastric stimulation?

The stimulator device is the same size and shape as a cardiac pacemaker. It is controlled via an external controller device which allows the surgeon or specialist to adjust the frequency of the signals according to need. The device contains a battery which will have to be replaced after 5 years.

The device is connected to a long thin wire (insulated) which enables the transmission of signals from this device to the stomach. These signals enter the central nervous system and travel to the brain. Once there they cause the brain to emit feelings of fullness which prevent further consumption of food.

The procedure

This ‘keyhole surgery’ is performed under a local anaesthetic. The surgeon makes a small incision and places the stimulator device under the skin of the abdomen. He/she then uses a remote control which is connected to a ‘programmer’. This enables him/her to control the signals which are emitted through the wire attached to the stimulator. These signals ‘stimulate’ the nervous system in such a way as to subdue the appetite which leads to reduced calorie intake and weight loss.

The surgeon will test the device and will also make minor adjustments to the frequency of the signals.

The benefits of gastric stimulation

This is a new device and as a result of this we do not have any long term data to support its efficiency or otherwise. It appears to aid with weight loss although it is much too early to say.

The risks of gastric stimulation

As we do not know the benefits then we do not the risks either. However, this device is very similar to a pacemaker which means that anyone who has this device fitted will have to take the same precautions.

These include such risks as metal detectors used in airports which are designed to pick up any metal or electrical devices. This can cause over stimulation of this particular device. It is a good idea to mention that you have had this device fitted when going away on holiday.

If you are in a public place where there are electronic signals or pulsating magnetic fields then be aware that this can also affect the stimulator. For example, the use of loudspeakers at a public event.

And, if you have return to hospital for any type of medical tests, such as an MRI scan then this can affect the workings of the stimulator. Remember to mention about this to the nurse present or any other relevant personnel.

Can anyone have this gastric stimulator?

As it is a new form of treatment it is difficult to say. If you have a BMI over 40 and have spent the last 6 months trying to lose weight then in theory, you are suitable for this procedure.

However, there are a set of criteria which exclude patients from this procedure if they have the following:

  • Chronic or poorly maintained diabetes.
  • Cardiac pacemaker.
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • High risk of stomach ulcers.
  • Have undergone obesity surgery or any other form of abdominal surgery.
  • History of heart disease.
  • Other form of obesity-related illness or poor health in general.
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