New obesity surgery goes through mouth

Doctors are testing a new kind of obesity surgery without any cuts through the abdomen, snaking a tube as thick as a garden hose down the throat to snap staples into the stomach.

CHICAGO — Doctors are testing a new kind of obesity surgery without any cuts through the abdomen, snaking a tube as thick as a garden hose down the throat to snap staples into the stomach.

The experimental, scar-free procedure creates a narrow passage that slows the food as it moves from the upper stomach into the lower stomach, helping patients feel full more quickly and eat less.

Doctors say preliminary results from about 200 U.S. patients and 100 in Europe look promising.

After about 18 months, obese European patients have lost an average of about 45 per cent of their body weight, said Dr. Gregg Nishi, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The procedure is only being done in the studies, which recently ended enrolment.

Makers of the device used in the operation plan to seek federal approval if the research continues to go as planned.

While the two studies are still under way and only brief details are being released, Nishi said results so far are slightly better than typical results from with conventional stomach stapling.

Risks include perforating the esophagus, as Nishi said happened to a patient at another centre, but otherwise, he said, there have been no major complications.

Some study patients have lost weight after unknowingly undergoing fake procedures — sedation and the tube, but no stapling. Results comparing them with the real thing aren’t yet available.

Liliana Gomez, an administrative co-ordinator at Cedars-Sinai, was among the first Americans to have the scarless obesity surgery last year, as a test case for the U.S. study.

She had planned on more invasive conventional surgery until learning that doctors at her hospital were studying the scarless stapling technique.

Since her operation in August, Gomez has lost about 18 kg (40 pounds) and dropped from size 22 to size 16.

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