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Embolization

Left gastric embolization leads to weight loss

Figure 1: Left gastric artery angiography (black arrow) showing fundus of stomach (dashed arrows). (Credit: Radiological Society of North America)
The post-procedural weight loss of the experimental group was significantly greater than that observed in the control group (P=0.001)

The results from a new study have revealed that individuals who underwent embolization of the left gastric artery for gastrointestinal bleeding experienced a 7.9 percent decrease in body weight three months after the procedure. Results of the study, which offer a potential new avenue for obesity research, were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"Ghrelin is the only hormone known to stimulate the appetite, so it is an intriguing potential target for combating obesity," said senior researcher Dr Rahmi Oklu, assistant professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School. "Animal studies have shown that when this artery is blocked, blood levels of ghrelin decrease and weight loss occurs."

Rahmi Oklu

Transarterial embolization is a common interventional procedure used to treat a variety of medical conditions. In the image-guided procedure, an embolic, or obstructive, agent is inserted through a catheter and placed inside an artery to prevent blood flow in an artery or to a specific area of the body (Figure 1). Types of embolic agents include beads, coils and gel foam.

The retrospective study, ‘A catheter to curb your appetite? A novel observation of weight loss following left gastric artery embolization in humans’, conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, included 14 patients who underwent embolization of the left gastric artery, which supplies blood to the part of the stomach where the hormone ghrelin is predominantly produced.

The researchers explained that since the left gastric artery is sometimes embolized in interventional radiology procedures, they assessed post-procedural weight loss in patients after left gastric artery embolization.

Retrospective analysis of electronic medical records of patients who underwent left gastric artery embolization for upper GI bleeding were compared to age-matched controls of similar patients that had undergone embolization of an artery other than left gastric artery for upper GI bleeding.

Patients were included in the analysis if they had a recorded weight within two weeks prior to the embolization and within three months after the procedure. Differences in post-procedural weight loss between the groups were evaluated by a student's t test.

Fifteen patients (mean age: 66.1 years) were included in the experimental group analysis while eighteen patients (mean age: 63.5 years) were included in the control group analysis. The mean pre- and post-procedural weights in the experimental group were 189.1lbs and 174.5lbs, respectively, representing a 7.9% decrease in body weight.

The mean pre- and post-procedural weights in the control group were 164.7 lbs and 162.8lbs, respectively, representing a 1.2% decrease in body weight. The post-procedural weight loss of the experimental group was significantly greater than that observed in the control group (P=0.001).

They concluded that the current data suggests that body weight can be potentially modulated via left gastric artery embolization in humans.

"Embolizing the left gastric artery may be a potential bariatric treatment for weight loss and an alternative to other invasive procedures," added Oklu. "This is an important data point in the development of a new clinical tool for the treatment of obesity. The effect of left gastric artery embolization will need to be studied in larger populations and eventually in prospective trials.”

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