Safer Alternative to Weight-Loss Surgery: Stomach Implants

Sunday, 01 Dec 2013 04:05 PM

By Lynn Allison

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Researchers and engineers have developed new options for people having difficulty losing weight: implantable devices that help people eat less without the trauma of surgery or the risky side effects of obesity drugs.

At least six new implants have been developed by medical device manufacturers. Most, but not all, are implanted through endoscopes that go in through the mouth. The devices are often removed after a desired amount of weight is lost. They work through different mechanisms to give patients a feeling of fullness before they have overeaten. Many have still not been approved by the FDA, but may be available in clinical trials.   

Abiliti, made by IntraPace Inc., has been used for years in Europe and FDA approval is pending in the U.S. It works by sending electrical pulses to the stomach to make people feel full with smaller meals. It also sends signals to the brain to discourage snacking between meals and late at night.

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For German dietitian Katrin Falb, 34, Abiliti was a lifesaver. She had tried everything from Weight Watchers to acupuncture to lose weight. She had the half-inch, business card-sized device implanted near her stomach in March 2011 and in less than a year she dropped 51 pounds.

In a year-long study of Abiliti, participants lost an average of 30 percent of their weight. They can opt to remove the device or keep it, undergoing an outpatient procedure to change the battery every five years.

ValenTx is made by a California company and it mimics gastric bypass without the risks or complications of surgery, such as injury to the stomach and other internal organs.

“Instead of surgically bypassing the stomach, a plastic sleeve is inserted in the esophagus which transports food to the mid-gut area,” explains Beverly Hills bariatric physician Carson Liu, M.D. “This is placed with an endoscope and it is a great and safe way of attacking obesity.”

TransPyloric Shuttle or TPS is made by BAROnova, also a California-based company. It is another endoscopically placed device that’s inserted into the bottom of the stomach.

“It’s used to slow down food and causes stretching of the entire stomach,” Dr. Liu tells Newsmax Health. The TPS and works by slowing down the natural emptying of the stomach so that you feel fuller, longer. It is  currently being tested in clinical trials with obese individuals.

Endobarrier has been developed by GI Dynamics. It is a temporary barrier to keep food from coming into contact with digestive juices until later in the small bowel tract.

“This barrier starts past the pylorus and thus avoids all of the acid issues and foreign body reactions that we observe when an object is placed inside the stomach,” said Dr. Liu.

The device is inserted through the mouth and ends up just below the stomach, funneled into the intestine without being digested. It’s also currently in clinical trials.

Satisphere by Endosphere is an endoscopically delivered device that takes the shape of the small intestine and helps regulate feelings of fullness so patients don’t overeat. This relatively new entry to the implant field will soon begin clinical testing in the U.S. and Germany.

The i2MOVE is a new approach to weight loss that is currently undergoing animal testing at Imperial College London. The i2MOVE is a tiny implant inserted into the vagus nerve in the abdominal cavity which plays a role in appetite awareness and other body functions.

The device, according to researchers, can identify and read chemicals in the body and send signals to the brain reducing or stopping the urge to eat. Researcher Chris Toumazou says, “It will control the appetite rather than saying don’t eat completely, so you’ll eat a low slower.”

An American company Enteromedics is currently testing a similar device called
VBloc.

“These are great devices that can help many people lose weight,” says Dr. Liu. Questions remain about how some of the devices will perform over the long term in the harsh, acidic environment of the digestive tract, he says.

“For people who are highly motivated to change their lifestyle and can tolerate the devices for six months, the implants are an excellent tool.”

If you think you might be a candidate for a stomach implant, Dr. Liu suggests talking to your doctor about which devices would work best for you and which ones are available in your area.

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