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Stomach Pacemaker May Be Low-Risk Option

Oct. 16, 2003 -- A new "pacemaker" implanted in the stomach may offer obese people another surgery alternative. Early results of the stomach pacemaker show that most patients lose a significant amount of weight.

Researchers say the stomach pacemaker could replace traditional weight-loss surgery in some obese people.

The stomach pacemaker -- known technically as the Implantable Gastric Stimulator -- helps people feel full. And early results show that 80% of patients lose weight after having the device implanted.

The stomach pacemaker is put into place through laparoscopic surgery -- where surgery is performed through several small holes in the abdomen rather than a large opening. An electric lead is implanted in the wall of the stomach and is connected to an electric programming unit that is inserted under the skin of the abdomen.

Exactly how the stomach pacemaker helps people lose weight is unknown, says Scott Shikora, MD, assistant professor of surgery at Tufts University School of Medicine.

It causes people to feel full earlier, but researchers don't know whether this is caused by stimulation of nerves, inhibition of hormones, or stimulation of the muscle of the stomach itself, he tells WebMD.

However, the stimulator offers a novel approach that does not alter gastrointestinal anatomy -- as in traditional weight-loss surgery -- and has been shown to be safe in 450 patients worldwide, according to the researchers.

Shikora and Michael Tarnoff, MD, presented their research at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity annual meeting.

In their study, the stimulator was surgically placed in 30 men and women -- average age 39 -- who were more than 100 pounds overweight. The study was funded by Transneuronix Inc., the manufacturer of the Implantable Gastric Stimulator.

Two weeks after surgery, the generators were activated. All 30 patients were successfully implanted with the device with no complications. Electrical parameters were adjusted for the patients based on their individual responses.

Results were available for 15 patients. Of those, 80% lost weight after about 10 months. On average, the amount of weight loss was 19% of excess weight.

Other findings include:

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