Digestive Health

01 April 2010

Gastric pacemaker promising

A pacemaker that electrically stimulates the stomach can help control chronic vomiting in people with severe stomach disorders, says a new study.

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A pacemaker that electrically stimulates the stomach can help control chronic vomiting in people with severe stomach disorders, says a new study.

Swedish researchers first tested temporary electrical stimulation of the stomach in 27 patients and found that 22 of them experienced fewer symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting. The researchers then surgically implanted a permanent pacemaker in the stomach of 20 patients and 90% of them experienced good long-term results.

Another study of 16 patients found that electrical stimulation of the stomach led to fewer days in the hospital during the year following treatment.

Electrical stimulation doesn't seem to affect the stomach locally, said the University of Gothenburg researchers.

Diabetes patients already using them

"We believe instead that the stimulation somehow acts on the brain's centre for nausea and vomiting by activating the neural pathways running from the stomach to the brain," doctoral student Stina Andersson explained in a news release.

Gastric pacemakers are already being used in some diabetes patients who suffer severe vomiting. These new findings suggest that gastric pacemakers may be effective in patients with other difficult-to-treat gastrointestinal disorders.

"The treatment could, for example, work on intractable nausea following chemotherapy or extreme nausea during pregnancy," Andersson said. "No studies have yet been performed in these areas, however."

Gastroparesis -- a condition where the stomach empties slowly without there being any blockage -- is one type of stomach disorder that can cause severe vomiting and nausea. Diabetes and gastric surgery are among the causes of gastroparesis. - (HealthDay News, April 2010)

 

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Digestive Health Expert

Dr. Estelle Wilken is a Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. She obtained her MBChB in 1976, her MMed (Int) in 1991 and her gastroenterology registration in 1995.

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