Good Vibrations: Leading-edge treatment for a life-limiting gastrointestinal (GI) disorder

Good Vibrations: Leading-edge treatment for a life-limiting gastrointestinal disorder

In 1992, while practicing in Memphis, Tennessee, Thomas Abell, MD, medical director at the Jewish Hospital GI Motility Clinic and professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, and his GI team developed a gastric electrical stimulation therapy, now called the Medtronic Enterra Therapy System. This innovative therapy is used to treat symptoms of gastroparesis, a stomach disorder affecting roughly 5 million Americans.

The condition results in slow digestion of food, which causes severe, chronic nausea and vomiting. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the therapy in 2000, eight years after the first system was implanted. Prior to the advent of the Enterra Therapy System, patients had limited and minimally effective treatment options, including dietary modifications, medications, tube feeding or surgery.

Electrifying Effects

Enterra Therapy works by emitting mild electrical pulses to stimulate the top portion of the stomach’s wall. Its high success rate offers new hope to patients suffering from gastroparesis symptoms.

“This device is a great option for patients who have tried other treatments but haven’t experienced improvement,” Dr. Abell said. “This new approach is highly effective — about 80 percent of patients experience a considerable improvement in their symptoms.”

To provide more cost-efficient care, the Jewish Hospital GI Motility Clinic first offers patients a temporary Enterra device, placed outside the abdomen in an outpatient endoscopy lab, to see if their bodies respond to therapy and symptoms improve.

Watch the video below to hear Dr. Abell discuss Enterra Therapy

“We can usually tell within a week if the therapy is going to work for a patient,” Dr. Abell said. “If they respond well to the treatment, we surgically place a permanent device, which is inserted under the skin over the abdomen.”

Because the permanent device requires a surgical procedure, patients need several weeks to recover from the surgery before the device is activated.

“This therapy has been evolving greatly over the last 16 years since it was first approved by the FDA, and it holds great promise for patients who suffer from these symptoms, which can significantly impact quality of life,” Dr. Abell said. “We continue to see great success with this therapy, and look forward to seeing even more improvement as we learn more about this condition and similar GI illnesses.”

This article originally appeared in the 2017 Winter edition of One Health magazine. For more stories like this one, subscribe to One Health today.