Dec. 11, 2000 PHILADELPHIA -- Doctors at Temple University Hospital are using an implantable "stomach pacemaker" that applies small electrical pulses to the stomach to provide relief for people suffering from severe, chronic nausea and vomiting associated with gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is a stomach disorder in which food moves through the stomach more slowly than normal. This can result in severe, chronic nausea and vomiting that cannot always be controlled by medications. These patients have difficulty eating and, in severe cases, may require some form of tube feeding to ensure adequate nutrition.
The pacemaker -- officially called a gastric electrical stimulator -- is currently FDA-approved for compassionate use and is meant for patients for whom conventional drug therapy has failed. During the operation, which is performed under general anesthesia, the surgeon implants two small electrodes in the muscle wall of the stomach. The lead is then connected to the implantable neurostimulator that is placed beneath the skin, usually positioned below the rib cage and above the belt line in the abdomen. The pacemaker then emits 12 mild electrical pulses a minute to stimulate the stomach.
"Results of a clinical trial show that a majority of patients treated with the pacemaker experienced a reduction of vomiting episodes greater than 50 percent at 12 months," says Dr. Henry Parkman, director of Temple’s GI Motility Laboratory. "Patients also experienced improvements in other upper gastrointestinal symptoms, solid food intake, as well as significant improvements in health-related quality of life."
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