The concept of a pacemaker shouldn’t be alien to most people; they help keep the heart beating on a more regular rhythm by passing electrical impulses through the heart. A new weight loss tool, essentially a pacemaker for stomachs, has been invented in California and recently trialled in Germany. The stomach pacemaker works by sitting around in the stomach and waiting until it detects food has been consumed. At this point it passes an electrical signal to the nerves and simulates a feeling of rapid fullness so that the patient doesn’t feel like eating any more.
Sensors in the device can send large amounts of data to a receiving device so that the doctor can adjust the device accordingly depending on how much food intake is needed, and the levels of exercise or exhaustion within your body. If you’re exercising hard and have a minimal calorie intake because of the stomach pacemaker you might start to suffer from exhaustion – something the data sets will help avoid.
The pacemaker, called ‘the abiliti’ and made by IntraPace, is still being tested for safety and effectiveness but it has already been trialled in 65 patients so far. Their average food intake decreased by 45%, and they lost 22% of their average excess weight within a year. The trials were only open to patients with a BMI of between 35 and 50, but their BMI fell significantly one year after the trials.
If you’re considering weight loss surgery, then you will want to compare the stomach pacemaker to gastric banding and gastric bypass surgeries. On the whole, gastric bypassing gives a weight reduction of 50 to 60% of excess weight after the first year, and gastric banding gives around 35% – both these figures are much better than the stomach pacemaker. However, the stomach pacemaker is seen as a safer and more reversible process – it is much easier to remove, or even just switch off, the pacemaker than it is to remove a gastric band or bypass.
Stomach pacemaker surgery is very quick and simple too, with small incisions being made in the abdominal wall for the device to be inserted into the body and wired up. It is also reversible.
The cost of the surgery has been estimated at around $20,000 if done in Britain, where the device was recently approved for use. However, the device still isn’t approved for use in America and certainly won’t be before 2014. Reasons against approving it include the fact that the stomach is a complex area of nerves that require more than a simple shock to properly stimulate them. Hopefully over time the pacemaker will develop and offer a more complex set of nerve stimulants, at a cheaper price. It could definitely be a weight loss tool of the future!