Brain and Body

A Weight-Loss Device That Sucks Food out of the Stomach Just Got FDA-Approved

June 17, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Animation of the AspireAssist device
Photo credit: Screen grab from a video by Aspire Bariatrics

It drains a third of consumed calories into the toilet after each meal.

After success was shown in a clinical trial, a weight-loss device, called AspireAssist and manufactured by Aspire Bariatrics, just gained FDA-approval.

It’s not your everyday weight-loss aid — the device works by sucking out a portion of the stomach contents after each meal and draining the food out into the toilet via a tube.

“The AspireAssist approach helps provide effective control of calorie absorption, which is a key principle of weight management therapy,” William Maisel, deputy director for science and chief scientist in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a press release.

The device is intended for obese patients who are ages 22 and up, are classified as severely or very severely obese by the body mass index, and who have failed to maintain weight loss through non-surgical therapies.

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To implant the device, surgeons make a small incision in the abdomen to insert a tube in the stomach with an endoscope. A small plug called a skin-port sits on the abdomen skin, almost something like a second belly button, giving the patient access to the stomach tube.  

About 20 to 30 minutes after eating a meal, the patient turns the device on, opens the valve, and lets it do its job to drain the food matter. It takes about five to 10 minutes to suck the food out into the toilet, removing about 30 percent of the total consumed calories. Then, to finish it all off, the patient flushes his or her system with fresh water.

The FDA approval came after the organization reviewed the results of a clinical trial of 111 obese patients treated with AspireAssist and 60 control patients. Both groups received lifestyle therapy. After one year, the control group who had only received the therapy had lost an average of 3.6 percent of total body weight, while the patients using AspireAssist had lost an average of 12.1 percent.

However, opting to have an AspireAssist device implanted certainly isn’t without risks. The FDA reports that side effects “include occasional indigestion, nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea.”

Plus, the actual surgical procedure of the device comes with some unpleasant risks. Patients may experience indigestion, bleeding, sores on the inside of the stomach, pneumonia, unintended puncture of the stomach, vomiting, and the FDA even cites death as a possible outcome.

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With that in mind, it’s definitely a decision to carefully think through before jumping on the possibility of losing weight.

Plus, Katherine Ellen Foley over at Quartz reports that the cost of the device, including additional lifestyle counseling, may range anywhere from $8,000 to $13,000 USD — not a cheap fix.

Still, despite all the caveats, the device may be exactly what some patients are looking for.

Mikael Cederhag, a 55-year-old Swedish patient, told ABC News that he’s lost 64 pounds and counting since he had the AspireAssist device implanted last year.

"This is it for me. I've been jumping up and down in weight for 30 years," Cederhag said. "Finally, this is a solution that allows me to get my weight down and stay that way."

You can see how the device works in this video.

More research in the field of weightloss: Scientists Plan to Use Freeze-Dried Poop Pills to Help People Lose Weight

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