Baptist Health gastric pacemaker surgery helps patients
New procedure to provide relief to stomach emptying condition
January 14, 2014 | Jacksonville, FL
People struggling from a debilitating stomach condition may have renewed hope through a new procedure at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville where a device similar to a heart pacemaker could help their stomach function more properly.
Gastric electrical stimulation, which will be used for patients ages 18 to 80, may reduce symptoms of gastroparesis, a chronic, debilitating condition where the stomach does not process and properly empty food causing nausea and vomiting.
Often called a gastric pacemaker, local physicians say the electrical stimulation not only can reduce nausea and vomiting but may also help improve the stomach, which is dysfunctional and slow.
“We have something now we can offer people who are completely refractory (resistant) to medical care,” said John M. Petersen, DO, a board certified therapeutic gastroenterologist, partner in the Borland-Groover Clinic and is on the medical staff at Baptist hospitals. He has a special interest in biliary and pancreatic diseases, Barrett's esophagus, inflammatory bowel disease, as well as all motility related disorders.
The procedure has been approved by Baptist Health’s institutional review board. Dr. Petersen will be the principal investigator in all research activities.
“There is a lot of literature I’ve read that shows the results are encouraging,” said Dr. Petersen, who did his fellowship in gastroenterology and hepatology at the Yale University School of Medicine. “They are not perfect, but the numbers are well better than a 50 to 50 chance it will have a marked improvement in their health.”
Gastroparesis occurs most often in people with diabetes who have neuropathy or damage to the nervous system. Healthy patients can get the condition after a viral infection impacts the nerves controlling stomach motility or after having a gastric surgery that cuts the vagus nerve. Symptoms include feeling full after only a small amount of food, loss of appetite, nausea with vomiting, abdominal pain, bloating, abdominal distention and weight loss.
“They can have significant weight loss to the point where they can’t function. They can’t work, they can’t eat,” Dr. Petersen said. “If they are diabetic, their diabetes is out-of-control.”
The disorder can affect patients of all ages, but is slightly more prevalent in females and is treated with altering ones diet and medication.
“Up until now, there’s only a couple of medications you can use to treat it and those medications are fraught with a lot of side effects and really not that effective,” Dr. Petersen said.
The electrical stimulation involves attaching two insulated wires or electrodes laparoscopically to the lower body/antrum of the stomach. The electrodes attach to the neurostimulator that is placed in a subcutaneous pouch on the abdominal wall.
gastric neurostimulator, developed by Medtronic Inc., can be programmed easily, Petersen said, to enhance the frequency of gastric contractions. The mild electrical stimulation of the antrum portion of the stomach muscle wall helps to reduce chronic intractable (drug-refractory) nausea and vomiting.
Steven Hodgett, MD, a Baptist Health general surgeon with North Florida Surgeons specializing in laparoscopic surgery and bariatric surgery, will be doing the procedures.
“It signals the stomach to contract to try to improve their gastroparesis,” Dr. Hodgett said about the gastric pacemaker. “It’s a patient population that overall is miserable. This shows a significant amount of improvement in their life.”
While some other hospitals throughout Florida use the device, Junius Hill, national sales manager for Medtronic, said Baptist Health will be the only hospital currently in Northeast Florida using the product.
“With the success of the pacemaker, patients can eat, be free of disabling nausea and prosper,” Dr. Petersen added.
Petersen; Vikram Gopal, MD; Kyle Etzkorn, MD, chairman of the Department of Gastroenterology at Baptist Medical Center, and Steven Hodgett, MD, will be involved in evaluating patients; proceeding with gastric stimulation and its follow-up. Questions and referrals can be directed to 904.202.1182.