Published November 20, 2014
New research suggests a type of brain surgery may decrease the onset and progression of type 2 diabetes, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported.
Doctors at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh conducted a small study of 10 patients with progressive type 2 diabetes and compression of the medulla oblongata, a portion of the brain located on the lower half of the brainstem that controls pancreatic function.
Researchers followed the patients — who were not allowed to make any changes to their diet, weight or level of activity — for one year after undergoing microvascular decompression procedures.
Microvascular decompression, which is used for certain debilitating cranial nerve diseases, repositions the compressive artery and adds a protective pad between the artery and the nerve.
Dr. Peter Jannetta, neurosurgeon and lead author of the study, helped develop the surgery. He reasoned that decompressing the nerve in the medulla oblongata, which controls the function of the pancreas, could ease the effects of type 2 diabetes.
The pancreas regulates the production of insulin – a hormone that helps the body convert glucose into energy. In patients with type 2 diabetes, the body is either resistant to effects of insulin, or it simply does not produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels.
Seven out of the 10 patients had better glucose control as a result of the surgery. Those patients were able to decrease their medication dosage, and one was able to cease taking medication altogether.
Nearly 24 million people live with diabetes in the United States alone, according to the American Diabetes Association. Left untreated, type 2 diabetes can lead to serious cardiovascular, vision and renal problems, amputations related to circulation problems, and even death.
The study was published in the journal Surgical Neurology International.