How can a pacemaker-type device curb hunger? Doctors at Hartford Hospital are using an implantable device to treat patients with excess weight.

Dr. Pavlos Papasavas is Hartford Hospital’s director of surgical research and co-director of the surgical-weight loss program.

Q: How does this implantable device work?
A:  The device works to block the vagus nerve, which is the main nerve that connects the brain to the stomach. The vagus nerve is responsible for the function of the stomach, including acid secretion and food processing. Vbloc is an implantable “pacemaker” like device that decreases the ability of the stomach to relax and receive food, leading to less hunger and less food intake.

This procedure does not require any alteration of the GI tract and the person can eat normally unlike the other procedures.  This is a big difference compared to the other procedures.

Q: Who is the best candidate for this type of procedure?
A:   Any patient who has a BMI between 35 and 45 and has participated in a supervised diet program within the last 5 years.

Patients who want to lose a moderate amount of weight to improve their health and want a procedure that is safe and reversible.

However, patients with cirrhosis of the liver, patients who have another implanted, electrically powered device (e.g., heart pacemaker, implanted defibrillator or neurostimulator) and patients who need MRI or diathermy will not be candidates for this type of procedure.

Q:  How much weight can a patient lose with this procedure?
A:  Patients lose an average of 28 percent of excess weight at 1 year after surgery but centers with dedicated patient follow-up achieved 30-45 percent of excess weight loss. (If you have an excess of 100 pounds, you lose 30-45 pounds.)