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'Gastric Sleeve' obesity procedure tested

January 8, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
This year, more than 200,000 weight-loss operations will be performed here in the U.S. But now doctors are looking into less-invasive procedures that don't have all the risks of major surgery.There is no cutting involved in a new procedure called the "gastric sleeve." The most prominent types of weight-loss surgery are gastric bypass and the LAP-BAND. The general goal of these operations is to surgically reduce or limit the capacity of the stomach.

But researchers are working on something that doesn't require going under the knife. Early research on a new device appears promising.

Weighing in isn't such a bad thing anymore for Barbara McMackin. The pounds have been coming off ever since she became the first person in the U.S. to get an experimental device called the "EndoBarrier."

"EndoBarrier is a sleeve that is placed without surgery into the patient's small intestine to help them achieve weight loss," said Dr. Keith Gersin, bariatric surgeon.

The EndoBarrier, or gastric sleeve, is placed endoscopically through the mouth and lines the first two feet of the small intestine. It prevents food from being absorbed while it's in the sleeve.

Early results from the study show patients who got the device lost more weight than those who didn't, although not nearly as much as patients who get a gastric bypass or LAP-BAND.

But experts in the field predict the EndoBarrier can serve as a bridge to those more aggressive procedures. A 10 percent reduction in weight increases the chances a patient can get a laparoscopic surgery, rather than an open incision, which has more risks.

After three months, Barbara McMackin lost 17 pounds.

"I did not feel hungry like I used to," said McMackin. "I could get into clothes that I couldn't get into before, and had more wriggle room, which was great."

At this point, the EndoBarrier is only being studied as a temporary fix, but Dr. Gersin says its future as a non-surgical alternative is exciting.

"We're looking at a market of between 15 and 30 million people that could potentially be helped by this," said Dr. Gersin.

We contacted a few obesity surgeons regarding this new device.

One of them, Dr. Jeremy Korman of Centinela Freeman, says the gastric sleeve also appears to be effective in obese patients with diabetes.

The drawbacks: It can't be used permanently, and in rare cases the sleeve may become dislodged and migrate further into the intestine.

In the three-month study, EndoBarrier participants lost 10 to 15 percent of their weight.


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