Updated 30 January 2017

New gastroparesis procedure offers hope for diabetes patients

A new medical procedure used to treat gastroparesis, a common complication of diabetes that causes severe nausea and vomiting, is now available in South Africa.


A new medical procedure provides a promising solution for South African diabetes patients who suffer from gastroparesis – a condition that can cause crippling nausea and vomiting on a daily basis.

Deficiencies and other concerns

Gastroparesis is a common complication of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. It occurs when the muscles that control stomach action become partially paralysed.

Gastroparesis affects the rate at which nutrients move from the stomach to the intestines where they are absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed throughout the body.

As a result, patients do not properly absorb nutrients from their diet which can cause a number of deficiencies and related health concerns.

In a first for Johannesburg, a patient with type 1 diabetes was recently fitted with a new device that stimulates the stomach muscles, allowing for nutrients to pass through to the intestines at a normal rate.

Read: These digestive disorders are common in type 1 diabetics

The Enterra device was implanted during a surgical procedure performed by specialist gastroenterologist, Dr Ismail Moola, and general surgeon, Dr Barbaro Monzon at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital.

“The patient, a 47-year-old woman with type 1 diabetes mellitus, was suffering from extreme nausea and vomiting. As a result of being unable to keep her food down she was not getting sufficient nutrients from her diet. This severely compromised her health,” explains Dr Moola.

Reaping the benefits

“To add to her problems, the patient also has impaired kidney function, following a failed transplant some years ago, and has to have regular renal dialysis.”

The two doctors report that the patient is already reaping the benefits.

“Before the surgery, the patient had lost a lot of weight because of persistent nausea and vomiting. With the Enterra gastric implant, however, her body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food is improving by leaps and bounds and this is likely to optimise her overall health and wellbeing. Furthermore, the reduction in these symptoms represents a real improvement to her quality of life,” Dr Moola observes.

“The result is that the patient can absorb nutrients when eating normally, with most patients experiencing a vast reduction in nausea and vomiting. The patient who received the Enterra implant that was performed at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital affirmed that she has experienced a drastic improvement in her symptoms.”

The new Enterra device offers patients a much less intrusive solution than previous surgical options. In the past, gastroparesis patients would be fitted with feeding tubes connected directly to the intestines or a gastric pacemaker.

Read: Why it's important to take your diabetes medication regularly

Know the symptoms of gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is most common in people with diabetes but can also affect those with connective tissue disorders, Parkinson’s disease, chronic intestinal pseudo obstruction and certain psychological disorders.

“The symptoms of gastroparesis include nausea, vomiting, bloating and gastric distention. In severe cases it leads to dehydration, nutritional failure and poor glycaemic control,” explains Dr Moola.

Read more:

Recognising diabetes complications

Could you have diabetes without realising it?

Can metformin boost your gut bacteria?

Source: Netcare Sunninghill Hospital (07/03/2016)


Ask the Expert

Diabetes expert

Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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