Multiple times a day you open your fridge, pop something into the microwave or peak into your pantry to – possibly – wonder: Will this make me gain weight?
Researchers and engineers have been working for years to create the magic formula for weight loss. What’s one of the latest developments causing a stir? Stomach implants.
What is a Stomach Implant?
“Basically, it’s no different than a cardiac pacemaker, in that it has a sensor and stimulator and it’s implanted laproscopically. Your surgeon makes three or four little holes, takes a couple electrodes and inserts them in the stomach,” George Kerlakian MD, of TriHealth Weight Management, explains.
These electrodes are then connected to a small device (about half the size of a mobile phone) that is implanted under the skin and is programmed by a technician or your doctor. “The idea is to stimulate the nerves in the stomach that will make you feel full, sooner,” he points out.
Stomach Implants: What’s the Difference?
The foundational purpose of a stomach implant is similar to weight loss surgery, in that it is meant to help you feel satiety earlier in a meal, to prevent overeating. However, the potential benefit of having a stomach implant surgically inserted is that it’s a less invasive procedure.
On the other hand, Dr. Kerlakian says the main hazard associated with these devices is that the risk of infection goes up. “Any time you have a foreign object [in your body], you could risk an infection,” he warns. “But other than that, the risk is relatively minimal. The operative procedure should be fairly innocuous.”
The Bottom Line: How Effective Are Stomach Implants?
Right now, Dr. Kerlakian says the clinical data on the effectiveness of stomach implants is preliminary. “There’s an ongoing trial in the U.S. … and my understanding is the results are not conclusive yet,” he explains. Similarly, he says that while people enrolled in the trial are losing weight, the main questions yet to be answered are:
- Is the weight loss caused by the implant, or is the implant insertion having a placebo effect?
- Is the weight loss long-lasting?
He says a study that uses evidence-based medicine is needed to answer those questions. This means there would be two populations of patients studied: one population would have an activated implant, while the other group's implant would be deactivated, but neither group would know which version of the implant they have. "You would follow the patients over a period of six months, a year, and then even longer – five years, probably – before you can say whether this is a long-lasting solution to the problem or it's not," Dr. Kerlakian explains.