Implantable device may help regulate hunger those with severe obesity.
The company Intrapace has come out with a new gastric stimulator device called “abiliti” which is meant to do the opposite of what Medtronic’s Enterra device does. While the Medtronic Enterra device is designed to help reduce nausea & vomiting in those with Gastroparesis so that they can increase food intake, “abiliti” is meant for those who are looking to lose weight and not eat as much. “abiliti” works in a similar fashion but obviously the goal is not to cause patients to experience symptoms similar to Gastroparesis, but instead to stimulate the stomach which causes a feeling of satiety or provides a feeling that the patient interprets as a signal to stop eating.The “abiliti” device is installed via a small incision during a laparoscopic surgery procedure. Intrapace claims the surgery takes about an hour. There are two parts that hook up to the stomach. You have a “food sensor” which appears to actually pierce the stomach wall where it remains while the device is installed & you also have an electrode placed near the base of the stomach which is how the device is able to send electrical current to the stomach to stimulate it. Those these pieces connect to small rectangular device that manages when & when not to send the electrical stimulation. The device also monitors vital signs, activity level & possibly food intake. Some people may feel this is an invasion of privacy, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.
How well does it work? Well that seems to be somewhat hard to find out. While the “abiliti” website does have a positive testimonial it seems very light on press releases or information on clinical trials. While I’ve seen it mentioned in various news stories that there have been two trials, with one story suggesting long term success rates were found to be approximately 65%, I have yet to actually find the full text of these trials.
Currently the device is only available in European countries & has not been approved for use within the United States. It appears that there may be laxer standards over there compared to the FDA here in the USA(that isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Recently Intrapace announced that ‘abiliti’ had CE marking certification. Reading up on CE markings it seems as though they are self given certifications mainly for marketing between international countries. While there are guidelines that companies using the marking are suppose to uphold, it doesn’t really mean anyone is monitoring every product with CE markings to verify they are up to snuff.
My personal opinion on the device is split. As someone who dealt with acute Gastroparesis & who still deals with digestive problems I am wary of any “elective” device or surgery that will reduce the bodies ability to digest food. That being said, people who are obese or extremely obese may be facing just as dire health circumstances if they do not lose the weight. Perhaps one issue I may have with “abiliti” is that it seems to almost be targeted to those who are “just” overweight or mildly obese. Essentially it’s something those who aren’t overweight enough to get lap-band or gastric bypass can go for. This may be a good thing, having more options isn’t really a bad thing, you just hope it doesn’t turn into something people take lightly & decide to try & get it because they’re 20 – 40lbs overweight and don’t want to try and change their lifestyle.