Sunday, June 7, 2009

New procedure for obesity surgery - enter through mouth, no scars

Denver, CO
A new kind of obesity surgery without any cuts in the abdomen is being tested in small experimental groups. In this surgery the stomach is stapled by means of a tube that has been put down the throat of the patient. Preliminary results from US and European studies look promising.

In the experimental procedure the stomach is stapled to create a narrow passage that slows the food down as it moves through the stomach. This helps the patients feel full after eating small amounts of food and as a result eat less. Stapling the stomach is not a new technique, but this procedure is unique as there are no scars.

About 300 patients have undergone this new procedure. If all goes well, the makers of the tube, which is as thick as a garden hose, plan to seek federal approval of the device. This procedure is part of a move by the medical community to perform surgeries through body openings instead of incisions. The goal is to reduce chances of infection, pain, and speed recovery as well. Obviously, with no scars there are cosmetic advantages as well.

Studies in the US and Europe are still underway, so only brief details are being released. According to Dr. Gregg Nishi, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, results so far are slightly better than typical results from conventional stomach stapling. In the European study, over the course of 18 months the patients have lost an average of 45 percent of their body weight. Final results from the US study, which is taking place at ten centers, are expected in 2010.

Demand for obesity surgery is high in the US with more than 15 million obese Americans. According to the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery more than 200,000 Americans are expected to undergo conventional forms of obesity surgery this year. Existing procedures are far more invasive. Gastric bypass changes how the stomach attaches to the intestine which increases the chances for malnutrition while restricting calorie absorption. Another popular procedure involves putting an adjustable band around the top part of the stomach.

Dr. Scott Shikora, president of American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery, called the oral procedure exciting and innovative, but said, "It is too early for us to say this is going to be a breakthrough."

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