In the perfect world, a healthy diet and regular exercise would be enough for successful weight loss. However, the reality is different. Many people struggle to slim down regardless of the lifestyle adjustments they make. Various treatment options and procedures are available to help jumpstart weight loss. The stomach pump weight loss device is one of them. In this post, you’re going to learn everything you need to know about this device.
What is a stomach pump?
Stomach pump weight-loss device created specifically to allow patients to empty a portion of the stomach contents after a meal to promote weight loss through small improvements and effective control of calories absorbed. Also known as a gastric emptying system, this device is called AspireAssist. The Food and Drug Administration approved this stomach pump in 2016 as an obesity treatment (1).
The statement released by the FDA describes AspireAssist as helpful to improve control of calorie absorption, which is paramount for weight management. The device is inserted surgically, but that’s not the end of the road. Patients need to be monitored regularly by their health care provider. Obese patients who get a stomach pump also need to adhere to a specific lifestyle program to decrease calorie intake and develop healthier eating habits.
How does the stomach pump work?
Even though the device is surgically implanted, an extensive procedure is not necessary. The surgeon uses an endoscope, a handheld device, to perform this procedure. For that reason, only a small incision is required, which is why this procedure is minimally-invasive. During the operation, a patient is under mild or conscious sedation or general anesthesia. It takes about 15 minutes to complete this simple procedure. Since this is an outpatient procedure, patients get to go home several hours later.
Once the stomach pump is in place, a patient has a disc-shaped, flat button on the outside of their abdomen. This button is called the Skin Port and it connects to a tube, called A-tube, inside the stomach.
After eating your meal, it is necessary to wait 20 to 30 minutes before you connect the external pump to the Skin Port. What this tiny device does is that it empties approximately 30% of the food you consumed into a receptacle such as a toilet. For that reason, you need to do this in the bathroom or other private space. The emptying process takes five to 10 minutes. That way, only about a third of calories is absorbed by the body.
Since a significant amount of food is emptied after a meal, the body has fewer calories to absorb. As a result, you create a calorie deficit, which is vital for weight loss. A calorie deficit occurs when the number of calories you eat is lower than the number of calories you burn through exercise (2, 3, 4).
The patients also adopt healthy eating habits, make healthier food choices, and are guided to maintain the weight loss they achieved.
How many pounds I can lose with a stomach pump?
The first thing to bear in mind is that every person is different. The actual weight loss may vary from one patient to another. Like with other weight-loss strategies, your success greatly depends on your adherence to the program. AspireAssist is not just about inserting a device that will pump stomach contents out of the stomach.
Patients learn various techniques for successful weight loss and more effective weight management. For instance, your healthcare provider will advise you to chew your food slowly and thoroughly. Not only does this make the emptying process easier, but chewing food thoroughly can slow down the eating pace and decrease the number of calories you consume (5, 6). After all, studies have shown that overweight people tend to chew food less than people with a healthy weight (7, 8).
Slow or mindful eating is particularly important because it enables the brain to detect the signs of fullness so that you decrease food intake.
The statement released by FDA also reported the results of clinical trials that inspected the effectiveness of the AspireAssist device. The study included 111 subjects with an implanted stomach pump and adequate lifestyle therapy. The control group contained 60 participants who received lifestyle therapy alone.
One year later, patients with AspireAssist lost about 12.1% of their total body weight, on average, whereas their counterparts lost only 3.6%. While 12.1% may not seem like such a big number, keep in mind it means those subjects lost around 31.5% of their excess body weight.
Besides weight loss, participants also experienced improvements in obesity-related health problems such as hypertension and diabetes. Their quality of life also improved. That happens because people learn how to adopt lifestyle habits such as to decrease intake of traditional diet typical for American society, and focus more on healthier options.
Who is a good candidate for stomach pain?
You need to meet certain criteria to be considered eligible for a stomach pump weight-loss device. These requirements include (9):
- At least 22 years of age
- Body mass index (BMI) 35-55
- Having previously attempted to lose weight with diet and exercise alone
Who isn’t a good candidate for stomach pump?
While the weight loss stomach pump can be helpful for many patients, some persons are not good candidates. Cases, when this device can’t be used, include the following (10):
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding
- Previous abdominal surgery that increases the likelihood of placement of gastrostomy tube
- High risk of complication from the endoscopic procedure due to severe organ dysfunction or poor general health
- History of inflammatory bowel disease, esophageal stricture, pseudo-obstruction, gastric outlet obstruction, or severe gastroparesis
- Physical or mental disability or psychological illness
- History of refractory gastric ulcers
- Chronic abdominal pain
- Night eating syndrome
- Bleeding lesions, ulcers, or tumors detected during an endoscopic exam
- Binge eating disorder or bulimia diagnosis
- Coagulation disorder
- Evidence or history of serious cardiovascular or pulmonary disease
- Uncontrolled hypertension
You may not be eligible for these medical devices if you are moderately overweight.
What happens during the initial consultation?
The whole process begins with the initial consultation with the doctor. The main objective here is to learn as much as possible about the device and find out whether you could be a good candidate.
During the initial consultation, the healthcare provider will ask questions about your medical history including medications you’re taking, or whether you have ever undergone a weight-loss procedure.
The doctor may order a blood test to check whether you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or some other condition.
The initial consultation is also the opportunity for a doctor to ask questions regarding past or current eating disorders.
How long does it take to recover after the procedure?
Two weeks after the procedure are the most important because a patient goes through several stages before the pump is ready for use.
First, your healthcare provider will inform you about what you can do for the best recovery. You’ll learn how to treat the incision, and they will also tell you to avoid taking NSAIDs during this stage. These medications could contribute to blood thinning.
The final part of the procedure takes place on day 7, typically, i.e. once the incision has healed. That’s when you go back to the doctor’s so they can attach the final component (button or connector). It takes only a few minutes to attach this component and it doesn’t cause pain.
A patient is 100% ready to use the pump two weeks after the procedure.
Since this is considered a minimally-invasive procedure, the recovery process is easy. You’ll need to take two to three days off. During the first day or two, you may feel discomfort around the treated area. Most patients need about three days to return to normal activities.
What are the side effects of a stomach pump for weight loss?
The stomach pump for weight loss is generally safe, but some adverse reactions may occur. Immediately after the procedure, the most common side effects tend to be pain or discomfort in the abdomen, and nausea or vomiting.
Pain and discomfort are tackled with pain medications. Nausea and vomiting may occur due to sedation medicine administered during the procedure.
Potential risks associated with the device or therapy include:
- Granulation tissue or skin irritation on the abdomen around the site of tube placement (treated with a medicated lotion or silver nitrate sticks)
- Infection (treated with antibiotics or replacing/removing device)
- Abdominal discomfort and/or pain (treated with medication)
Only 3.6% of patients (four out of 111 subjects) experienced serious complications that required an overnight stay in the hospital (11). These serious adverse effects were:
- Peritonitis (inflammation of the tissue that lines your abdomen, may lead to pain and infection)
- Abdominal pain post-op
- Non-bleeding pre-pyloric ulceration (sore on the inside of the stomach, may induce pain)
- Tube replacement due to normal wear
How much does a stomach pump cost?
The cost of the stomach pump for weight loss ranges from $7000 to $13,000. Factors such as location and physician play a role in the total cost of the treatment. Keep in mind the estimated price refers to the first year of comprehensive care and it includes:
- The AspireAssist pump device
- The procedure
- Lifestyle counseling
- Follow-up medical visits
- Device supplies
The costs are, generally, more modest in the following years and usually cover office visits.
The best thing to do is to ask your physician about the costs of the procedure.
Generally speaking, the costs of a stomach pump device are lower than the price of weight-loss surgery. Depending on the type of procedure, bariatric surgery may cost between $15,000 and $25,000 or higher in some cases (12).
Does health insurance cover the stomach pump for weight loss?
Health insurers do not list the AspireAssist weight-loss pump as a procedure they cover. That said, some patients have received coverage or full or partial reimbursement from the health insurance coverage provider.
Even though some physicians generally try to bill the insurance, most of them do require upfront payments. Depending on the type of health insurance you have, some physicians help patients get reimbursement after their procedure.
The makers of the stomach pump for weight loss do offer affordable financing options with low monthly payments.
Just like total costs, the health insurance coverage and financing topics are to be discussed with your physician.
One thing to bear in mind is that even if, in some hypothetical scenario, insurance companies cover the procedure you will need to meet certain criteria. This way, the stomach pump approach is similar to other weight-loss treatments. These criteria may vary from one provider to another, but they usually include BMI 35 to 39.9 with the presence of obesity-related conditions like sleep apnea or diabetes. A vast majority of insurers require that patients have documented evidence of weight-loss attempts that turned out to be unsuccessful.
Why stomach pump is considered controversial?
While the idea of a stomach pump seems like a scientific breakthrough for successful weight loss, it’s still a controversial subject in the medical community and public. Many are concerned that the stomach pump contributes to obesity stigma claiming the purpose of this device speaks to a fundamental misunderstanding of obesity as a biological process (13). The stomach pump overlooks the key principle of effective weight loss. While Aspire Bariatrics device works to eliminate a portion of food consumed and involves lifestyle changes, it may mask the problem instead of solving it. Weight loss is not just about the size of the meal.
Others declare the whole mechanism of action contributes to assisted bulimia (14). In other words, many are concerned stomach pump is just an easier alternative to bulimia as people can use it to eat anything they want because they will pump it out later. Some doctors even started a petition to sue FDA for approving such a device (15).
Also, patients need to be regularly monitored and in some cases, the doctor needs to shorten the tube, when a person is losing weight.
A stomach pump is an FDA-approved device that is meant to help people lose excess weight. It poses as a non-invasive alternative to metabolic and bariatric surgery and procedures such as gastric bypass. The device consists of several elements and a patient activates the surgically placed tube about 30 minutes after every meal to empty a portion of the consumed food from the stomach. Many doctors are against this device claiming it’s an alternative for bulimia. The pump has pros and cons alike. If you’re considering getting this device, you need to meet several criteria and also commit to making lifestyle modifications. Make sure to consult your doctor first. Further clinical studies are necessary to confirm the effectiveness of this approach.