A procedure that has been used to treat gastrointestinal bleeding from stomach ulcers may be the next big weight-loss tool, if the results of a small study hold up.
During the procedure, left gastric artery embolization, an interventional radiologist uses a catheter to deposit beads, coils or gels in the left gastric artery, which supplies blood to the fundus, or upper portion, of the stomach. Cells in the fundus are largely responsible for production of ghrelin, a hormone that works to signal that the stomach is empty and increase appetite. Researchers think that blocking blood flow to the fundus results in decreased ghrelin production and appetite.
In response to previous reports that patients who underwent this procedure for gastric bleeding subsequently lost weight, researchers compared 15 patients who had their left gastric artery embolized with 18 patients who had a different artery embolized. Patients who had their left gastric artery blocked dropped from an average of 189.1 pounds to 174.5 pounds – a 7.9% decrease in body weight over about three months. In contrast, those who underwent embolization of a different artery experienced only a 1.2% loss of body weight.
Left gastric artery embolization is considered to be a less invasive, faster and simpler procedure than most types of bariatric surgery.
In an even smaller study earlier this year, five patients underwent this procedure to treat obesity. While they lost an average of 45 pounds over six months, their ghrelin levels were starting to rise again by the sixth month, throwing into question whether this procedure would provide only a short-term fix.
The researcher’s findings will be formally presented at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting. Researchers said further study will be required before the procedure would become widely available as a treatment option for obesity.