Possible Problems with Gastric Stimulation


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The main reason why this procedure is still not a common choice of weight loss surgery treatments for obese patients is because it is still so new.  Although tests have shown some promising results and there are the obvious benefits of the lack of invasive surgery the procedure remains very much in its infancy.  Many obese patients feel that the procedure is still to be ‘tried and tested’.  There is indeed no long-term studies or data that can give patients or surgeons a full picture of the efficiency of the treatment.  In studies to date it has shown to be effective in aiding patients with weight loss, but it really is too soon to have a fuller picture.

There have been some problems reported with gastric stimulators during patient trials, mainly related to the fitting and set up of the pacer and programming the signals according to patient needs.  There are risks involved in the surgery, as there are will all surgeries and certainly with the other types of weight loss surgery.  As the treatment is so new some of the risks are also not fully understood. 

The batteries can go dead inside the pacer/stimulator and in such cases surgery is necessary to replace the batteries.  The batteries should last for approximately five years.  In tests there have been problems with the leads becoming loose and becoming detached from the stomach.  It has been reported in trials that leads that have become detached have traveled along the body causing further complications.  The main risks seem to include pulmonary embolism, damage or perforation to the stomach and dislodgement of the device.  There are also the risks involved with the use of anesthesia, which are the same with all weight loss surgeries. 

The surgery for implanting the device is fairly straightforward but does require careful surgical work.  The leads that attach to the muscles of the stomach must be attached very carefully, otherwise there is a risk of perforation of the stomach lining. 

Some patients have had problems when using metal detectors at airports due to having an electrical device fitted inside them.  Metal detectors are designed to pick up any metal or electrical devices.  Heart surgery patients who wear pacemaker devices have the same issues.  Walking through a metal detector at an airport could cause over stimulation, which could result in the regular electrical signals being disturbed and gaining in frequency or becoming irregular.  Other dangers include loudspeakers at public events and MRI scans.  When a patient has gastric stimulation treatment they should be advised of all the risks and be advised on what precautions to take to avoid anything that may interfere with the electrical signals.

Some patients experienced acid reflux, generally because food stays longer in the stomach resulting in an overproduction of stomach acid.  This can result in heartburn and indigestion and in the worst cause severe pain and scarring of the stomach lining. 


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