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Weight Loss: Another Scary Option

I came across an interesting weight loss invention this weekend that proposes to allow people to have their cake and eat it too.  Scientists have constructed a kind of plastic intestinal condom to block digestion of food.  Since gastric bypass surgery essentially reduces food absorption while decreasing stomach size, this removable plastic lining could act as a sort of non-invasive alternative to such a permanent procedure.  Sounds intriguing?

Well, before we get our hopes up, it’s always best to check with the gastroenterologists.  I dropped Dr. Brian Fennerty a note to ask him what he thought of this proposed weight loss solution.  His response was enlightening – “The Endobarrier Gastrointestinal Liner is potentially very dangerous as it may block the pancreatic duct and cause pancreatitis, dislodge resulting in bowel obstruction, or ulcerate. There are no comparative trials and as such I would consider it investigational at best.”

Why is blocking the pancreatic duct scary?  The pancreas is a little organ that should get a lot more respect, in my opinion.   It produces enzymes that are secreted into the intestine to break down food – I like to think of the pancreas as a bag that contains acid as strong as Alien blood (those of you who’ve seen the movie will get that reference).  Basically, the pancreas can liquify a steak – so plugging up the exit route for those enzymes is a really bad idea.  You can imagine why pancreatitis is so painful.

And then there’s the risk of the liner getting loose and wadding up in a plastic ball and blocking your bowels, or the risk of the plastic irritating the intestinal lining and causing an ulcer which could bore a hole straight through your gut.

Well, I don’t mean to resort to scare tactics here… but honestly, this procedure has serious risks that one doesn’t really get from the media’s article on the subject, “New Procedure Could Help Millions.”  So be careful out there folks – always check with your doctor before you try something new to lose weight.  I’m afraid that diet and exercise are really the safest options out there.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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5 Responses to “Weight Loss: Another Scary Option”

  1. Sunnydazed says:

    I am under the impression that devices that pose significant risk require both FDA and an Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval prior to initiation of a clinical study. Given the risk associated with this device or clinical procedure, as referenced in your blog, how is it that this device was approved, or was it?<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /><o:p></o:p></SPAN></P>

  2. chj says:

    To call this apparatus “a sort of non-invasive alternative” seems to me a gross understatement.  This is a plastic tube in the intestinal tract to keep food from touching the body !!!  If this is being seriously considered as a weight-loss strategy (except for some extreme cases, which I can hardly imagine) then I suggest we need to ask ourselves how far from ‘reality’ we have come.


  3. Anonymous says:

    The ideas good, its the specifics that have not been worked out yet….the opeative word here is ……”could”…but not yet.

  4. ValJonesMD says:

    Excellent points everyone… Sunnydazed, I would add that devices are held to a different standard of efficacy and safety compared to drugs.  The devices are often cleared through a 510 mechanism vs a PMA that has a much higher standard.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think this article is iresponsible. When witing a critique you should do some research. Before painting a device as potentially dangerous you should do some due dilligence. I recently had this device and had rousing success. I think this is a novel concept.

    A responsible journalist would do a little more homework before publishing a review. You should be ashamed. I’m glad I am not a student of yours.

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