For patients who have tried everything to lose weight, including having gastric surgery (such as a bypass or gastric band), a new experimental surgery may help them lose weight.
Over the last few years, there has been a rise in the use of gastric surgery to help people lose weight. Liposuction is also a popular way to lose weight quickly. However both these options sometimes fail to address underlying issues and as many as a fifth of people may put the weight back on.
A new experimental technique in the US may help to tackle obesity through the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS). Deep brain stimulation is already used in the treatment of movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and dystonia however researchers believe that it may also help tackle obesity.
With overweight patients, the DBS targets the hypothalamus, the area of the brain which controls the desire to eat. By stimulating the right area, the patient should feel full and therefore stop eating. This new approach is currently being test in the US.
This new weight-loss procedure is not for the faint-hearted. Patients are given a local anaesthetic and have holes drilled in their skull before electrodes are implanted through these holes. Wires attached to the electrodes are fed across the surface of the brain and under the skin to a tiny battery which is implanted under the collarbone.
Local rather than general anaesthetic is used so that surgeons can guide the electrodes to the right place. During the operation surgeons will ask the patient whether they feel full or not so that they know whether the electrodes have been position correctly or not.
Two patients have had this radical surgery so far and the early indication is that the technique works – so far, both are said to be eating less and losing weight.