The new treatment works by detecting when food reaches the stomach and then sending electrical signals to the brain that say the stomach is full before it actually is.
The Abiliti system, as it is known, is based on similar technology used in cardiac pacemakers. It consists of a small battery-powered titanium ‘pacemaker’ implanted under the skin beneath the ribs. This device is then attached to an electrode and a food detection sensor; which are placed inside the patient’s stomach (via keyhole surgery).
When the sensor detects any food or drink, it sends a signal to the device. This then sends electrical impulses back to the electrode in the stomach, which stimulates the vagus nerve. This controls the movement of the digestive system and the production of digestive juices. The nerve then transmits a signal to the area of the brain that controls appetite. Normally, nerve receptors in the stomach wall let the brain know when it’s full. The Abiliti system, effectively speeds up the messages.
The device has been developed for patients with a BMI of 35-55, or mobidly obese and once they have reached a healthy BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 it can be switched off or removed.
The operation is being pioneered by Mr Abeezar Sarela, a consultant at the Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital and is becoming known as GASTRIC PACING.
The procedure at present is only available privately at the Nuffield Health Leed Hospital and the BMI Thornbury Hospital in Sheffield. It costs between £10-15,000 and is not available on the NHS.