Newfangled Gizmo — the Reverse Feeding Tube

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A device called AspireAssist is said to help people lose 31 pounds, or an average 12% of body weight, in the first year. Here’s the spoiler: That first year will cost between $8,000 and $13,000. And the aftercare goes on forever. But we will get back to that.

While the patient is under twilight anesthesia for about a quarter of an hour, the doctor (not necessarily a surgeon; could be a gastroenterologist) puts a tube in the person’s mouth and maneuvers it until the end reaches its exit point, a hole in the abdomen. The other end winds up in the patient’s stomach. This is the standard procedure to place a feeding tube. However, rather than inputting a nutritional liquid, this tube will serve to evacuate partially digested food.

But the system is not up and running quite yet. Swollen tissue needs a couple of weeks to shrink. Then a valve, or skin port, is joined to the protruding tube end. Now, the person can attach “a smartphone-sized device” (which has to be carried around at all times) to the valve. It sucks matter from the stomach into a toilet (or flowerpot or kiddie pool — the possibilities are many.)

It’s not over yet. Next, a little bag is used to force water into the stomach; then the draining process happens again. The number of repetitions is not specified, but the developers estimate that each use of the system takes as long as 15 minutes, and removes about a third of whatever food started out in there.

Another Step

This is not an episode that just blends seamlessly into normal life. Medscape.com says:

As you lose weight and your belly size decreases, the doctor has to shorten the tube so the valve remains against your skin. Also, the device stops working after about 5 or 6 weeks, so you have to return to your doctor to get a replacement part.

As if that weren’t deterrent enough, the side effects include “occasional indigestion, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea.” Also, if too large of a meal was consumed, the tube might refuse to drain, because of the necessity to leave “space in the stomach for food to flow out through the device.” There will be repeated contact with medical professionals.

The company’s press release says:

Patients need to be regularly monitored by their health-care provider and should follow a lifestyle program to help them develop healthier eating habits and reduce their calorie intake.

This means monthly counseling sessions, apparently forever. Maybe W8Loss2Go could help them, at this stage, to get their lives on track.

A big AspireAssist selling point is that, unlike many types of bariatric surgery, theirs is reversible. But, confusingly, the Food and Drug Administration says it is “not intended to be used for short durations in those who are moderately overweight.”

Presumably, the goal is to retrain the person’s lifestyle so the apparatus will some day no longer be needed, and the skin port can be removed. But the person is eligible only if morbidly obese, and only if their commitment to the system promises to be a lengthy one. Here is another puzzling caveat from the FDA:

The AspireAssist device should not be used on patients with eating disorders…

But overeating to the point of dangerous obesity is an eating disorder.

Presently, AspireAssist is only recommended for people over the age of 22, but in the bariatric surgery field, those recommendations tend to shift downward pretty quickly. It has been called a brand of high-tech bulimia, whose sole advantage is that it doesn’t dissolve the patient’s teeth enamel like vomiting does. It has been called strange, gross, enabling, and, by a health worker we will discuss tomorrow, “the greatest big pharma scam ever in the history of big pharma scams.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “FAQ: New ‘Stomach Pump’ Weight Loss Device,” Medscape.com, 06/20/16
Source: “Stomach Sucker: How Does New Weight-Loss Device Work?,” LiveScience.com, 06/22/16
Source: “FDA Approves Stomach Pump Device For Weight Loss,” NaturalSociety.com, 06/17/16
Photo credit: Barry Pousman via Visualhunt/CC BY

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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

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Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
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Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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