Most weight loss surgeries involve reducing the size of the patient’s stomach to a smaller pouch, which reduces the amount of food consumed. However, doctors have accidentally discovered a new way in order to cinch appetites with an even less invasive surgical procedure. But, does it work?
Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital have studied the data of patients who have had a transarterial embolization, a procedure where surgeons uses a catheter to insert a tiny plug into an artery. The obstruction itself cuts off blood flow, which helps many medical conditions including ulcers, tumors or cancers or gastrointestinal issues.
The team led by Rahi Oklu, a MGH doctor and Harvard University professor saw that 14 of these patients had gastric embolizations and had lost an average of 8% of their body weight three months after having the surgical procedure. The 14 patients all had the procedure done on their left gastric artery, which is responsible for delivering blood to a certain part of their stomach that makes ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating hormone.
According to Oklu, ghrelin is the only hormones known to stimulate the appetite in the body, so it is a main target for combating obesity in patients. Various studies in animals have shown that blocking this artery decreases the blood levels of ghrelin and extreme weight loss does occur.
Oklu and his team looked at the other 18 patients that had the procedure that was performed on the other side’s gastric artery and found that their weight loss for the three months after surgery was at an average of just 1.2% compared to 8% for the other side.
The study’s researchers have found that embolizing the left gastric artery may be a potential new weight loss treatment procedure that is much less invasive then weight loss surgery for various patients. This more minimal type of surgery could be more effective in helping more people who are overweight and obese and are scared of having a larger procedure or do not have insurance. This procedure is less risky than other weight loss surgery methods that could result in leaks or infections.
Oklu and his colleagues understand that their observations are preliminary and that doctors will need to study the procedure and its effectives as well as any adverse effects before promoting it. A larger group of patients will need to be evaluated before larger conclusions can be drawn about effectiveness and the safety of this procedure.