Researchers in the United States have developed a new procedure that shrinks the stomach by as much as 80 percent without major surgery. Using a specialized endoscope, doctors re-shape the stomach by stitching it smaller from the inside out. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: Cherish Grabau can't pinpoint when she became overweight, but she says being a professional barbecue judge didn't help. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHERISH GRABAU, ENDOSCOPIC SLEEVE GASTROPLASTY TRIAL PARTICIPANT, SAYING: "We would eat pounds and pounds and pounds of barbecue by the time you are done. I can't do that anymore. I had to retire….I was just not happy. It was depressing. I wanted to do more and fit into better clothes and be more active but just not confident enough to do any of that." Cherish made many attempts at losing her 50 pounds of extra weight, all ending in failure. Yet she was on the low end of the obesity scale, making her a perfect candidate for a trial procedure at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. It's called a sleeve gastroplasty and it was developed by Dr. Christopher Gostout. Unlike major bariatric surgery, where part of the stomach is removed or bypassed, the new procedure re-shapes the stomach, all without having to make a single incision into the body. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. CHRISTOPHER GOSTOUT, GASTROENTEROLOGIST, MAYO CLINIC, SAYING: "If you look at the mass of people in the United States and outside the United States who are obese now, we can't operate on everybody. But maybe if we can catch them before they get too bad with a pretty safe reliable technique, this would be a good fit." Gostout inserts a specialized endoscope fitted with a suturing tool through the mouth and manoeuvres it down the oesophagus into the stomach. At that point he uses a series of stitches, working from the inside out, to reconfigure its shape. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. CHRISTOPHER GOSTOUT, GASTROENTEROLOGIST, MAYO CLINIC, SAYING: "When we are done with the sleeve, we have taken that classic looking stomach that you see on TV and we converted it into a brat, or about the size of a cooked hot dog or a brat. It's down to about 100, 150 cc's." Which is about 80 percent smaller in volume than an average stomach. Gostout says one of the most promising aspects of the new procedure is that it can be adjusted and fine tuned over time to conform to patients' healthier lifestyle. As for Cherish Grabau, she's happy. She's traded in barbecue competitions for 5K runs. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHERISH GRABAU, ENDOSCOPIC SLEEVE GASTROPLASTY TRIAL PARTICIPANT, SAYING: "I'm doing stuff now at almost 40 that I wouldn't have done at 30, so it's great, just a blessing." A blessing that according to Cherish, has renewed her appetite for life.