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Stomach Pacemakers Help Kids Keep Food Down - Implanted Device Uses Electronic Stimulators To Regulate Digestion

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Sixteen year-old Emma Geiger has passed a lot of time in hospital waiting rooms. For years, doctors called her back time and again, trying to figure out why she got sick, nearly every time she ate. It got so bad, Emma was forced to leave high school and take classes online.
"I mean every day, I'd call my dad up at work and say, 'Oh, I only threw up 7 times today' - and that was, like, an accomplishment," says Emma.
Then Emma came to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio - where doctors told her the answer to her stomach problems might be a pacemaker surgically implanted under the skin with electrical wires leading to her stomach. It's a high tech device with one simple function.
"It tells the stomach that it needs to empty and it does that at a certain frequency that we set. Enough to get the stomach to empty to get rid of the symptoms," says Steven Teich, MD of Nationwide Children's.
For more than a million people* like Emma, eating is a challenge. Most of us process the food we eat in a matter of minutes. In patients like Emma, it sits in the stomach for hours - making her bloated and nauseous and miserable.
You may not realize it, but small electrical currents tell your stomach when to empty, but for some kids, this device has to do it for them. Only a handful have gotten the pacemaker so far - but early results are promising.
"Very satisfactory, very good results. Symptoms improved remarkably within 2 weeks," says Hayat Mousa, MD of Nationwide Children's Hospital.
The pacemaker is working for Emma who - for the first time in four years - will spend more time this fall in the classroom, and less in a hospital room.
The pacemakers has been used for years in adults to help with digestive problems linked to diabetes. But this is one of the first times it has been used in children and adolescents.
Nationwide Children's Hospital offers the only program that takes patients from diagnosis all the way to surgery.
*Gastroparesis Overview, Gastroparesis Patient Association for Cures and Treatments
Nationwide Children's Hospital
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