Gastric pacemaker changes First Coast Lives

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A new surgery is changing lives of people living with stomach issues right here on the First Coast.

According to the National Institutes of Health, Gastroparesis is a condition that affects roughly five million people in the United States, alone.

People struggling with the debilitating stomach condition may now have a renewed sense of hope through a new procedure at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville where a device similar to a heart pacemaker could help stomach function.

Gastric electrical stimulation, can be used for people as young as 18 in order to reduce symptoms of gastroparesis, a chronic condition where the stomach does not process food properly, which causes nausea and vomiting.

Jacksonville-native, Pamela Thompson, 53, was diagnosed with gastroparesis 25 years ago. She is a Type 1 diabetic and the condition negatively impacted her blood sugar. Thompson was forced to stop working 18 years ago and the condition destroyed her teeth.

She would vomit about two times per day.

Thompson said, "I wouldn't eat when I went out because I would vomit and I couldn't get up because it happened so suddenly."

Thompson said the condition completely altered her everyday life.

"I had to have clothes in two different sizes because I never knew what was going to fit me, depending on the size of my stomach," said Thompson.

John M. Petersen, DO, a board certified therapeutic gastroenterologist, partner in the Borland-Groover Clinic in on the medical staff at Baptist Hospital.

Petersen said, "In the past, we've used medication to deal with gastroparesis, but those medications come with a lot of side-effects and a lot of problems."

Thompson was struggling with her condition because her medication was not easing the vomiting. Finally, she did her research and found the gastric pacemaker procedure could be done in Jacksonville. In March, she met with Steven Hodgett, MD, a Baptist Health general surgeon with North Florida Surgeons. Hodgett specializes in laparoscopic surgery and bariatric surgery.

Thompson opted for the in-and-out procedure.

"Patients' problem with gastroparesis is that their stomach doesn't empty," said Hodgett. "It doesn't have the muscular function it requires to promote food from the stomach into the first part of the intestine but the gastric pacemaker allows the current to go through to allow the stomach to process the food."

Hodgett says the pacemaker is inserted with several small incisions the size of a centimeter and charges are created to help the stomach contract.

For Thompson, she stopped vomiting every day. In fact, she says she's vomited just three times since having the procedure back in March. However, there are things that she cannot do, like carry a laundry basket.

But for Thompson, that's a small price to pay for a healthier life.

"I actually went to a Mexican restaurant and got a shrimp burrito and that night I actually slept through the night and didn't throw up," said Thompson. "It was great."

For more info about Gastroparesis: CLICK HERE


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