Gastric pacemaker showing improvement for patients with stomach condition
July 25, 2014 | Jacksonville, FL
Eating has not been a pleasant experience for Pamela Thompson the past 25 years after being diagnosed with a condition that prevents food from digesting properly.
If she went out to dinner, she would only get a drink and eat a bite of her husband’s food. She always felt bloated and never wanted to eat because when she did she would vomit every other day, which impacted her blood sugar.
The 53-year-old Jacksonville resident, who has had Type 1 diabetes for more than 40 years, was diagnosed 25 years ago with gastroparesis, a chronic, debilitating condition where the stomach does not process and properly empty food causing nausea and vomiting.
After medications failed, she turned for help to John M. Petersen, DO, a board certified therapeutic gastroenterologist with Borland-Groover Clinic, who is on the medical staff at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, and Steven Hodgett, MD, vice chair of Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville’s Department of Surgery, who is also with North Florida Surgeons.
In March, she had a gastric pacemaker put in, similar to a heart pacemaker, and now has a new outlook on life. Gastric electrical stimulation, which is being used for patients ages 18 to 80, has been shown to reduce symptoms of gastroparesis. Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville is the only hospital currently in Northeast Florida using the product developed by Medtronic Inc.
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.
“Patients with gastroparesis can lose a tremendous amount of weight and feel nausea almost 24/7. It’s a terrible existence,” 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. The Enterra
gastric neurostimulator, developed by Medtronic Inc., can be programmed to enhance the frequency of gastric contractions. The mild electrical stimulation of the antrum portion of the stomach muscle wall helps to reduce nausea and vomiting.
“The gastric pacemaker signals the stomach to contract to try to improve patients’ gastroparesis,” Dr. Hodgett said about the gastric pacemaker. “This is a patient population that overall is miserable. This shows a significant amount of improvement in their life.”
Dr. Petersen added, “With the success of the pacemaker, patients can eat, be free of disabling nausea and prosper.”
For Thompson, constantly getting sick destroyed her teeth and it “really wreaks havoc with your body over time.” She stopped working 18 years ago because her digestive problems were so bad and she would spontaneously get sick with no warning.
Since having the pacemaker, she’s no longer bloated and is able to eat without getting sick.
“It’s made a huge difference,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m pumped full of air. It was painful. My stomach was so bloated I’d have to wear clothes that were loose. My food is now digesting and I have a metabolism that is working well. It is amazing. It’s not a 100 percent like a normal person who eats whatever they want, but it’s so much better.”