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The "gastric pacemaker": New weapon against obesity

With gastric pacemaker the patient will stop eating earlier than usual, thus eating less
With gastric pacemaker the patient will stop eating earlier than usual, thus eating less

In terms of surgery against obesity, patients had up to now choose between gastric banding or stapling part of the stomach. But the arrival on the European market a new tool, "gastric pacemaker", offers another alternative.

Developed by an American company, Intrapace, this device consists of a pacemaker and a detector on the model of a cardiac pacemaker. The two electrodes are implanted by a surgeon in the wall of the stomach, one on top, one on the bottom. When the patient eats or drinks, the pacemaker begins sending small electrical impulses. The appetite is controlled in part by signals from nerves that go around the stomach to the brain, this technique can give a virtual sensation of fullness. The patient will stop eating earlier than usual, thus eating less.

Side of sensations in patients with previously tested the gastric pacemaker evoke a "tickle", but nothing unpleasant. Until then, 65 people benefited from this unit. Half of them have been at least a year, and most have lost about 20% of their starting weight without repeating. The battery of the device can run for about five years but it is for patients to decide the duration of use.

The pacemaker also offers another feature: thanks to its sensor, it monitors the activities of the patient what he eats and drinks, exercise he does and this information is downloaded by the physician.

It remains to evaluate the risks and effectiveness of this method, in view of operations whose effectiveness is already proven. Currently the most used, the "sleeve gastrectomy", which involves reducing the stomach by stapling in the height direction, gives excellent results. Instead, it is highly invasive in terms of the pacemaker, which remains a simple operation. As for the gastric band, it is losing ground because of its low efficiency and high morbidity.

Furthermore, current operations are recommended in the case of morbid obesity mostly dangerous when the body mass index (BMI) gets over 40 - but surgeries are less fortunate for obesity with a BMI between 30 and 40. The pacemaker, less invasive, could be of interest for these patients.

The "pacemeker" of Intrapace should be distributed initially in institutions specializing in weight loss in Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain, where the intervention is expected to cost between 14,000 and 16,000 euros.


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