Tomorrow will see the first patient in the UK fitted with the latest hi-tech weapon in the battle of the bulge. This ‘gastric pacemaker’, an inplant, works by tricking the brain into thinking it is full.
The Abiliti implant (that is put in place through keyhole surgery) is thought to work just as well as the more drastic gastric bypass.
The credit card sized implant works by detecting when food has been eaten and then sends signals to the brain to create the impression of fullness, regardless of the portion’s size. When someone with the implant eats, its sensor is tripped and sends a signal to the device, which then sends a series of gentle electrical pulses to the electrode. This excites the nearby vagus nerve and triggers hormonal changes that trick the brain into thinking that the stomach is full. Trials in Europe show that people who have been fitted with the device usually ate 45% less food at each meal.
The first UK patient, a 53 year woman, is due to be fitted with an Abiliti tomorrow at the private Spire Southampton Hospital by surgeon James Byrne. At the moment, the operation, which costs about £10,000, is only available privately.
The advantages of this new option are said to be that it is reversible; the implant can be programmed to switch off at mealtimes and on between them, to combat snacking; and while it can’t count calories, it can provide doctors with a picture of portion size and the number of nibbles eaten, allowing them to provide diet and lifestyle advice that has been tailored specifically to individual patients’ habits.