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Stomach pacemaker could aid weight loss

By Maria Cheng
Associated Press / March 4, 2011

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LONDON — Patrick Hetzner tried diets and exercise, just about everything short of stomach stapling to lose weight. Nothing worked. Five months ago he tried something new: a stomach pacemaker that curbed his appetite.

Since having it implanted, the 20-year-old Munich mailman has knocked off more than 22 pounds from his earlier weight of 229 pounds.

Hetzner got the device as part of a clinical trial. Since being approved by Britain last month, the device is available for sale across the European Union. It works a bit like a cardiac pacemaker and consists of a stimulator and a sensor surgically implanted onto the stomach.

The stimulator sends out electrical pulses meant to trick the stomach and brain into thinking the body is full. Hetzner said the pulses kick in a few minutes after he starts eating or drinking. He said they make him feel full after finishing about half the amount of food he would normally eat.

“It feels like a little pressure on my stomach or a tickle, but it’s not a bad feeling,’’ he said by phone.

“It’s been like a little guide to help me change my life,’’ he said.

So far, about 65 patients in two studies have received the device from US pacemaker manufacturer Intrapace. Only about half of those have had the pacemaker for at least a year, and most lost about 20 percent of their weight and kept it off.

Other stomach pacemakers are on the market but most are used to relieve such symptoms as nausea and vomiting.

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