Friday, November 29, 2013

Interventional radiologists discover potential new approach to treat obesity

Left gastric artery

According to a new study to be presented by Mass General radiologists at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), a common interventional procedure used to treat many medical conditions may result in significant weight loss for obese patients.

In the retrospective study, patients who underwent embolization of the left gastric artery for gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding experienced a 7.9 percent decrease in their weight three months after the procedure while patients who were treated for upper GI bleeding with transarterial embolization of a different artery experienced a 1.2 percent decrease during the same time frame. The left gastric artery supplies blood to the part of the stomach where the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin is predominantly produced.

"Ghrelin is a potent hormone known to stimulate the appetite, so it is an intriguing potential target for combating obesity," said Rahmi Oklu, MD, PhD, an interventional radiologist at Mass General. "Animal studies have shown that when this artery is blocked, blood levels of ghrelin decrease and weight loss occurs."

Dr. Oklu pointed out that left gastric artery embolization performed by an interventional radiologist is low risk when compared to more invasive weight loss interventions, such as gastric bypass and laparoscopic approaches.

"This is an important data point in the development of a new clinical tool for the treatment of obesity," he added. "The effect of left gastric artery embolization will need to be studied in larger populations and eventually in prospective trials."

Transarterial embolization is an image-guided procedure that places an embolic (obstructive) agent inside an artery to prevent blood flow to a specific area of the body. Interventional radiology at Mass General offers a range of minimally invasive treatment options as an alternative to surgery for a variety of conditions.


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