Gastroparesis is a condition in which the stomach doesn't empty properly. Says UCLA gastroenterologist Mark Ovsiowitz, MD, "For most people, food empties from the stomach within two to four hours after eating. But for those with gastroparesis, the stomach doesn’t empty properly, which may cause severe nausea, vomiting and other problems."
For people who do not respond well to dietary changes or medication therapy, an implanted neurostimulator may be the best option. UCLA surgeon Darryl Hiyama, MD, explains, "While the neurostimulator does not cure gastroparesis, some studies have demonstrated that the device effectively reduces symptoms in approximately 80% of people."
The neurostimulator is about the size of a pocket watch and may be implanted through an incision in the abdomen during a surgical procedure that takes approximately 30 minutes. Much like a heart pacemaker, the device is programmed to send electric currents to the stomach through a tiny generator and two electrodes, which stimulate the muscle contractions necessary to properly move food through the digestive system. Says Dr. Hiyama, "The device is limited to people who suffer from debilitating symptoms of gastroparesis and who really have no other hope for prolonged symptom relief. The results for the appropriate people are promising, and some people say they feel better almost immediately."