Gastric Stimulation (Implantable Gastric Stimulator )

Gastric stimulation is a fairly new type of way of treating obesity.  Gastric Stimulation is sometimes referred to as IGS (Implantable Gastric Stimulation).  It is a procedure, which involves the implanting of a device that gives off electrical signals to the brain triggering feelings of fullness.  The patient does not experience hunger like they normally would and therefore their food consumption should reduce.  

The device that is fitted is very small and about the size of a pacemaker and looks like a small metal box.  The stimulator device is very similar to a pacemaker used in heart surgery and looks much the same.  The stimulator that sends electrical pulses to the brain of the obese patient is fitted under a local anaesthetic by laparoscopy.  Keyhole surgery is performed which leaves the patients with very little scar tissue and generally a quick recovery.  A tiny incision is made around the between the waistline and the rib cage and the stimulator device is fitted just under the skin.  The surgery is not invasive and does not require any major changes in the anatomy, as in other weight loss surgeries such as gastric bypass.  Electrodes are attached to the smooth muscles of the stomach, which provide mild electrical stimulation.  These electrical pulses encourage the stomach to contract, therefore giving the patients a feeling of fullness.  This procedure is fairly simple to perform and does not require long hospital stays and is non-invasive, which is very attractive to many obese patients.  Once fitted the surgeon will program the signals at the level he/she thinks will be required for weight loss.  The surgeon will test the device and make minor adjustments to the frequency of the signals, depending on how the patient is responding to the treatment. 

The Gastric Pulse Generator

The stimulator/pacer known as a gastric pulse generator is a small metal box, which contains the electronic circuitry and a power source.  Its job is to generate electrical signals.  This device is about the size of a small pocket watch.  Attached to the pacer is a lead, which is a thin electrical wire.  The purpose of this lead is to carry the signals from the pacer to the stomach.  The last part of the system is called a programmer and this is the device, which programs the stimulator/pacer.  The programmer is about the size of a small mobile phone.  The device is hand held and is like a remote control.  This controller device allows the surgeon to control the frequency of the signals so that they can be adjusted according the patients needs.  The surgeon can send instructions to the stimulator using a computer programmer, which can control the frequency of the signals.  Once the controller device is set up to suit the patient, these signals will continue to be sent through the nervous system sending messages of fullness regularly.  The electronic impulses sent to the stomach cause the stomach muscles to contract, which stops the natural movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine, called peristalsis.  The patient will therefore feel full and find their appetite reduced resulting in reduced calorie intake and weight loss. 

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