Physicians are turning to pacemakers, devices typically used in heart problems, to help ease severe gastric disorders in children.
In June, surgeons implanted a pacemaker in a 16-year-old patient with gastroparesis, a debilitating stomach condition that affects the way the body processes food.
This is the first time the procedure has been performed in a child at Nationwide Children's Hospital-Columbus (NCH-C), which is now one of the few institutions in the US offering this type of treatment.
Gastroparesis is a condition where the stomach contracts less often and less powerfully, causing food and liquids to stay in the stomach for a long time.
In as many as 60 percent of children with gastroparesis, the cause is not known. The condition often leaves children feeling constantly bloated and nauseated and can result in malnourishment and significant weight loss.
'The pacemaker is surgically implanted under the skin and is connected to two electrodes placed on the stomach wall. It tells the stomach to empty at a certain frequency,' explained paediatric surgeon Steven Teich, professor at Ohio State University (OSU).
'The initial settings are fairly low and, as with a pacemaker in the heart, we can change the settings as needed. It empties the stomach, alleviating bloating, vomiting and nausea,' said Teich.
'In patients who have received this type of treatment, nearly all symptoms were resolved within two weeks,' said Hayat Mousa, associate professor of clinical paediatrics at the OSU College of Medicine.