Findings of a new study have shown that a procedure used to stop stomach bleeding may provide an option for treating severe obesity, a condition affecting one in eight adults worldwide.
For the new study involving severely obese adults, researchers found that the minimally invasive procedure called bariatric artery embolization (BAE), which has been used for decades to stop bleeding in emergency situations, offers a safe and effective option for sustaining weight loss in severely obese patients.
BAE works by targeting a portion of the stomach that produces most of the body's ghrelin, one of the hormones that play a role in controlling hunger.
The procedure is performed by an interventional radiologist who use catheters and image guidance to access the blood vessels to this portion of the stomach though a small nick in the skin.
The physician then injects microscopic beads to reduce the flow of blood to the portion of the stomach thus suppressing hunger signals, which could lead to reduced appetite and weight loss.
Results of the new study which will be presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology's Annual Scientific Meeting in British Columbia on April 3 showed that the procedure appears to initiate weight loss, dramatically reduce hunger and lower levels of ghrelin.
Current treatments for obesity include invasive procedures such as gastric bypass surgery, which make changes to the digestive track so as to limit the amount of food that a person eats.
Although these procedures are highly effective, they come along with risks such as bleeding and infection. Some people may also develop nutritional deficiencies and hernias.
Although BAE is not approved for weight loss and is only currently being used in clinical trials, study researcher Clifford Weiss, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said that it may be included in currently available tools that healthcare providers offer since the safety of the procedure has already been demonstrated.
"As this study expands and includes more patients both at Johns Hopkins, and now at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, we will be able to gain more insight into the effectiveness of bariatric arterial embolization and the role interventional radiology can play in the critical battle against obesity," Weiss said.
The researcher, however, said that the procedure is not a magic bullet against obesity.
"The goal is to decrease a patient's hunger. We see this as a tool to be used with proper diet and exercise," Weiss said.