June 4, 2009 in Nation/World

Experimental obesity surgery leaves no scars

Lindsey Tanner Associated Press
 

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 percent 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 enrollment. 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 conventional stomach stapling.

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

Liliana Gomez, an administrative coordinator 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.

“When I found out it was going to be oral, through your mouth, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s kind of different,’ ” she said.

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

The new method is part of a medical movement to perform surgery through body openings such as the nose, mouth and vagina instead of making cuts. The idea is to reduce chances of infection and pain, and speed recovery. With no scars, there are cosmetic advantages, too.

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