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Operation Weight Loss

Operation Weight LossSurgery to aid weight reduction is one of the fastest growing operations in the U.S. Now Tufts doctors are pioneering a new procedure which may revolutionize the industry. Boston.

Boston [10.17.03] Around the country, obese patients are lining up to receive stomach-reduction surgery. The operation is so popular that more than 100,000 patients are expected to undergo the procedure next year alone. Now, researchers at Tufts are testing an innovative new procedure in the field - implanting an electric stimulator in the stomach.

"The results are promising, although we still have a long way to go," Dr. Scott Shikora - associate professor of surgery at Tufts School of Medicine - told NBC Nightly News. "I believe in my heart this is a very exciting breakthrough in our field."

Shikora has helped to pioneer an implanted electrical device - which NBC dubbed a "tummy pacemaker" - that stimulates the stomach and fools the body into feeling full. The Tufts expert hopes the device will offer a new way to help obese patients who do not lose weight on diets or appetite-suppressing drugs.

Shikora and his team of researchers implanted the device in 30 obese women and men. After a year with the implant, two-thirds of the patients had lost weight, with an average drop of 18 percent of their excess weight.

"Shikora, head of bariatric surgery at Tufts-New England Medical Center, presented the study in Fort Lauderdale at the annual scientific meeting of the American Association for the Study of Obesity," reported NBC.

The implantable gastric stimulator, which is slightly bigger than a silver dollar, is placed under the skin in the abdomen and connected to the stomach with two wires. The procedure takes less than an hour.

After installing the stimulator, doctors increase the devices' power until the patient can feel its presence - then turns the power down a small amount until all sensation disappears.

"They don't feel a buzzing or a pain," the Tufts expert told NBC. "They just don't have an appetite, or they get full very quickly."

The Tufts doctor said that researchers are still unsure of exactly why the machine lessens desire for food. "Some [patients] say ‘I don't know what it is. I just eat differently now,'" Shikora told NBC.

The device, which is already on the market in Europe, is years away from FDA approval. Many are optimistic, however, that if more successful studies are completed, the procedure could offer a safer alternative to many major stomach-reducing surgeries.

"[According to Shikora] there have been no reports of deaths or serious complications resulting from the pacemaker," reported NBC.

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