Lifewatch: Gastroplasty

Reported by Claire Hosmann - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Until recently, shrinking the stomach for weight loss was done through a rather lengthy and risky surgery. Now, a new procedure can do it under an hour with no cutting.

A doctor in Venezuela came up with a new procedure using a device to treat reflux disease.  He stitches together parts of the stomach to make it smaller.  The procedure has been found to reduce levels of the hormone that controls hunger.

When 30-year-old Belinda Guevara's weight peaked at 217 pounds, she decided to take action.

"I've heard about gastric bypass. I've also heard about the gastric banding and I'm really not the type of person that would submit myself to that kind of surgery," said Belinda.

Instead, Belinda opted for a new experimental weight loss procedure that shrinks stomach size without surgery.  It's done by going in through the mouth and down the esophagus.

"We are not removing anatomy, we're just making the tunnel a little thinner. This is completely reversible. This is a procedure that takes up to 45 minutes to perform and the patient goes home within half an hour to an hour after the procedure," said Gastroneterologist, Dr. Pedro Jose Greer.

Mercy Hospital in Miami is one of three centers in the United States now studying whether vertical gastroplasty is safe and effective.

"So you have a little pouch here that actually drips the food in, one by one. You eat smaller amounts, you're not as hungry, so you lose weight," said Dr. Greer.

Dr. Roberto Fogel claims there have been no serious complications so far.

"We had in Venezuela maybe six or seven patients from the almost 400 with a small bleeding, but a bleeding that was controlled in the moment," said Dr. Fogel.

Candidates for this study are people with a body mass index or BMI between 28 and 40, need to lose less than 100 pounds and have no chronic health conditions.

Two days after her gastroplasty, Belinda feels great and has noticed a big difference in her appetite.

"I'm not hungry which is great because you don't have the urge and you don't have the sensation to just eat. It's incredible because you would never think that you would feel full having soup. And having a small amount of soup, I'm already full," said Belinda.

Belinda's goal is to lose 60 pounds.  Her doctors say most of the weight should be gone in six months.

This stomach shrinking procedure costs $8,900, but insurance won't cover it because it is considered investigational.

Some patients who had this procedure said they were able to go to work and carry on their normal activities the next day.