Brain surgery for weight loss?
West Virginia mother of two Carol Poe, 60, is only the second person in the United States to undergo deep brain stimulation for weight loss after trying everything from diets to having her stomach stapled.
Last month, she took part in a clinical trial at West Virginia University hospital in which neurosurgeons drilled into her brain and used electricity to control her feelings of hunger and satisfaction.
Poe, 5-feet 2-inches and who weighed 230 pounds before the surgery, said that at her heaviest she weighed about 490 pounds.
Dr Julian Bailes, chairman of West Virginia University's department of neurosurgery, said Poe was a good candidate for the radical treatment.
Bailes told Reuters that the West Virginia University hospital was the only one in the United States, and the only center he knew of worldwide, using the deep brain stimulation technique specifically on obese patients.
He said the first patient underwent surgery in November 2008. The second, Poe, took place in February. Both are part of a clinical trial, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, conducted by fellow neurosurgeons Michael Oh and Donald Whiting.
Poe's story was told on ABC's "Nightline" Monday.
"This is not for overweight patients. It's for obese patients," Bailes told "Nightline."
"This is a frontier of medicine...to be able to generate tiny pulses of electricity in these deep nuclei of the brain, and to see what effect they may have on behavior, including in this case the behavior of eating and the issue of uncontrolled appetite," he said.
Poe was awake during the three-hour surgery, in which wires carrying an electrical impulse were inserted into her brain in the region where the stomach is controlled, and linked to two pacemaker devices implanted in her chest.
The voltage going into her brain is turned up slowly over future months to give Poe the sensation of feeling full.
"We hope her sensation is a sensation of satiety, a sensation of fullness, a lack of compulsion to consume excess calories," Bailes told "Nightline". "And a sensation again of satisfaction, of not having the feeling we need to eat some more when we know we don't."
Doctors said it would be several months before any weight loss is noticeable while the voltage to the brain is gradually increased. But a week after the voltage was turned on, Poe told "Nightline" she had already lost three pounds.
"When I eat, I get full faster. I just don't have the cravings like I used to have," she said.