Brain Surgery for Weight Loss

Quite a buzz in the weight loss world was started when Oprah did a show on the use of deep brain stimulation surgery to help people lose weight. As of February 2009 there had only been two people to take on brain surgery as a means to losing weight, however according to West Virginia University Hospital there are now numerous obese patients who have signed up for this experimental weight loss surgery.

Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery is a new and experiemental procedure to help obese patients lose weight.

Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery is a new and experiemental procedure to help obese patients lose weight.

Losing weight can be an uphill and lifelong battle for some people. Not only is weight a problem with how someone feels each day in regards to how they fit into clothes and even society, there are serious medical complications that come with being obese. Some spend years trying different diets and medications in hopes of losing, only to fail. At times, they spend so much money their finances suffer. A new surgery for weight loss is being tested right now, but may not be available to everyone right away. This is brain surgery for weight loss, and while it shows promise, the final verdict is not yet in.

Very few of these surgeries have been performed, but many feel this may be an answer for those who are obese, have tried many different diets, and have failed to lose with weight with gastric bypass surgery. At the present time, this surgery is being performed in a trail approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The two doctors involved are neurosurgeons – Donald Whiting and Michael Oh.

This surgery is done while the patient is awake. This is because the patient must signal how they are feeling while certain parts of the brain are simulated. This allows the surgeons to know they have found the right spot to continue with the surgery. The area that controls the stomach (fullness and appetite regulation most specifically) is the targeted area. Once found, the area is connected to wires that will ultimately be controlled by two pacemakers that are implanted in the chest.

Once the system is in place, the patient learns to control hunger by sending electrical impulses to the brain to tell it that the stomach is full and that no more food is needed. In some obese patients, these signals are not getting to and from the brain naturally in due time to stop the person from eating more than they should. The voltage is slowly raised over the course of a few months to give the full sensation when needed to control eating.

Brain Surgery for Weight Loss Poll

While the success rate of brain surgery for weight loss is yet unknown, the second patient to have it done is reporting positive weight loss results. This is obviously not a surgery for someone with ten or twenty pounds to lose, and should never be taken lightly. Once it is available to the public, those considered obese by medical standards are going to be the only candidates that will have access. It will not come without risk, but the patient and doctor will weigh those risks against the risk of remaining obese.

For me, the whole idea of brain surgery for weight loss seems like an extreme step to take. However, perhaps if I had already been through all sorts of diets and bariatric surgery to try to lose weight and I was still gaining and eating out of control, then perhaps I would feel differently. In fact, even to be a  candidate for deep brain stimulation surgery you need to have gone through all of these other weight loss methods without success. The only thing I don’t hear mention of in all of this is therapy. You hear about how the candidates tried all sorts of diets and had bariatric surgery, but you never hear about whether they actually had therapy and counseling for their eating problems. Really, there are many extreme ways to lose weight, such as Orthodontic Jaw Wiring (see the post “Orthodontic Jaw Wiring for Weight Loss“), but unless you address the reasons behind your bad eating habits, long-term weight loss may be forever out of your grasp even if you do have electrodes stimulating your brain (How long do the electrodes stay in the brain? Is it for life?).


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