Blog | Thursday, August 11, 2016

Stomach draining?


Recently the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved a device for market called “AspireAssist.” The device is hooked up to an incision in your abdominal wall after each meal that allows you to drain 30% of your stomach contents directly into the toilet.

Harder to gain weight (and easier to lose it!) when you're diverting a third of caloric intake from your body into the sewer system.

It works like a “G-tube” in reverse, the kind of tube that puts liquid calories into your stomach in the event you can't swallow (i.e. you've had a stroke or some kind of oral surgical issue that won't let you chew and swallow). Therefore it was deemed “safe enough” because so far it has a low complication rate.

But keep in mind to get FDA approval the manufacturers only had to show efficacy and safety in 2 small trials totaling less than 200 patients. This is a lower barrier to market than would occur if the new product were a medication. (Devices and medications are held to different approval standards at the FDA.)

As for whether AspireAssist is ready for prime time, I share the healthy skepticism of my friends over at “Updates in Slow Medicine,” who wrote: “From the Slow Medicine perspective, removing food after eating directly from the stomach using an A-tube remains an experimental approach to weight loss, and we would only recommend an AspireAssist device to a patient of ours enrolled in an appropriate clinical trial.”

With more clinical experience it's possible this could be a solution for many folks struggling with obesity. But only when we know more.

This post by John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, originally appeared at GlassHospital. Dr. Schumann is a general internist. His blog, GlassHospital, seeks to bring transparency to medical practice and to improve the patient experience.