The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a weight-loss device that may sound like something out of a science-fiction movie: a small tube inserted into the stomach allows patients to drain a portion of their gut’s contents before the body absorbs those calories.
The device, called AspireAssist, was approved by the FDA after a year-long clinical trial on 171 people, 111 of whom underwent a procedure to place the device. The remaining 60 people were a part of the control group and did not wear a device. The researchers found that the patients with the device lost, on average, 31 pounds after one year.
But not all weight-loss experts think the device is a game-changer. Some critics argue that much more research is needed to prove such an approach works. In addition, there are concerns that the act of removing food from the stomach after eating may induce eating disorders similar to bulimia.
While the device may seem novel, the procedure for placing it is actually one that many doctors are quite familiar with.
It’s the standard procedure for placing a feeding tube into the stomach, said Dr. Shelby Sullivan, the director of bariatric endoscopy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and one of the researchers involved with the clinical trial on the device.
The procedure, which can be performed by gastroenterologists, as opposed to surgeons, takes about 15 minutes, Sullivan said. Patients are put under twilight anesthesia for the procedure. The tube is inserted through the mouth using an endoscope, and pulled through a small incision in the abdomen.
Once the tube is put in place, the patient will need to wait about two weeks for some swelling to go down, Sullivan said. After that, doctors attach a valve to the tube on the outside of the person’s abdomen. To drain food from the stomach, patients attach a smartphone-size device to the valve and empty the contents into a toilet in a process called “aspiration.” After this first “drain,” the person will squeeze a water-filled reservoir attached to the device to flush the stomach before draining the contents again, according to the FDA. The researchers estimated that the patients removed about 30 percent of the contents of the stomach each time they used the system, Sullivan said.
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Some scientists and physicians noticed the problem with this machine