THURSDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) -- The first five patients to
try a new, minimally invasive weight-loss procedure dropped an
average of more than 45 pounds in six months, researchers
The procedure -- called gastric artery chemical embolization
(GACE) -- works by blocking an artery in the stomach. This cuts off
part of the blood supply to an area of the stomach that produces
most of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite.
"If a large, randomized study shows similar results, this may be a very simple method and an alternative to bariatric surgery," said lead researcher Dr. Nicholas Kipshidze, with New York Cardiovascular Research in New York City.
However, an expert noted that when one hormone is targeted, the
body usually finds other ways to compensate. And another expert
said the procedure must be studied in far more people for much
longer periods to make sure there aren't major complications and
that weight loss persists.
The findings were scheduled to be presented Sunday at the annual
meeting of the American College of Cardiology, which begins this
weekend in San Francisco. The data and conclusions of research
presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until
published in a peer-reviewed journal.
In this first human test, researchers treated five obese people.
Patients had a catheter placed in their groin. The catheter was
threaded through an artery until it reached the upper part of the
stomach, called the gastric fundus. Then, tiny beads were run
through the catheter to block the artery.
Although blood flow to the stomach is reduced, the risk of part
of the stomach dying from lack of blood is small, because these
tissues get blood from other blood vessels, explained Kipshidze,
who is also the general director at Republican Hospital in Tbilisi,
After a month, patients lost about 29 pounds; by three months
they had lost an average of 37 pounds and at six months the average
weight loss was 45 pounds, the researchers said.
In addition, ghrelin levels also dropped. After a month, levels
had fallen 29 percent, and at three months it had fallen by 36
percent. At six months, however, ghrelin levels were only 18
percent below where they had been before the procedure.
This pattern is one to be expected, according to Dr. David Katz,
director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center.
"Ghrelin is one of many hormones known to influence hunger and appetite, and in every prior attempt to change long-term weight outcomes by manipulating one hormone, we found compensatory mechanisms that kick in over time and the benefits tend to wear off," he said.
"So [the new procedure] is unlikely to prove to be an alternative to the lifestyle approaches, namely eating well and being physically active," Katz said.
Study author Kipshidze noted that the new study did not address
lifestyle factors. To really test the effectiveness of the
procedure, he didn't tell the patients to change their diets or
"I told them 'Do what you want. Go and eat as much as you want,'" he said. "Their appetite decreased and they simply couldn't eat. Their intake was dramatically decreased."
According to Kipshidze, the procedures went off without a hitch,
and so far there have been no complications. The long-term outcomes
in terms of sustained weight loss and side effects, however, are
still unknown, he said.
Gastric artery chemical embolization has several advantages over
current weight-loss procedures, such as gastric bypass surgery and
gastric banding, Kipshidze said.
These other procedures are major operations with all the
consequences of any operation, including hospital stays and long
recovery times, he said. But with this new technique, "You do the
procedure in the morning, and you can send the patient home the
He noted that this procedure is a type of gastric artery
embolization that has been used for years to treat bleeding in the
intestines and reduce side effects from chemotherapy for advanced
Whether there will be complications down the line or whether
patients will gain the weight back, as many do after other
weight-loss surgery, isn't clear, Kipshidze said.
"Who knows with this procedure whether patients will gain the weight back? I cannot tell you; I don't know what is going to happen," he said.
That answer is the key to whether this procedure will be a
viable alternative to other types of weight-loss surgery, another
"The question is, will this thing work in a lot of people over a long period of time, and what's the complication rate and what's the mortality with it," said Dr. Stephen Green, associate chairman of the department of cardiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
"If this works, it would be fantastic -- it would be a game changer," he said. "But this is not ready for prime time."
Kipshidze is planning larger clinical trials where some patients
-- including some with diabetes -- will undergo the procedure while
others will have a sham procedure. In all, they will need to
include about 30 patients to be sure the procedure is safe and
effective, he said. The procedure is also being refined with new
equipment and techniques.
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