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Two Stomachs Are Better Than One: REALIZE Band Hits American Market after FDA Approval

Two Stomachs Are Better Than One: REALIZE Band Hits American Market after FDA Approval

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In the United States alone, there are approximately 15 million people who are classified as morbidly obese. Of these 15 million, many could improve their health dramatically through lifestyle changes and traditional forms of weight loss, such as diet and exercise. There are those, however, for whom weight loss is a more complex matter; try though they might to lower their caloric intake, they simply cannot do so to the extent necessary to escape the nightmare of chronic obesity. For these people, Ethicon Endo-Surgery, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, has developed a possible solution that has shown strong early promise, a device that they have named the REALIZE™ Adjustable Gastric Band.

The REALIZE™ Band is wrapped around the stomach, much like a belt, dividing the stomach into two chambers. The top chamber, into which food and liquid first enter, is the smaller of the two. As such, it fills relatively quickly, restricting the amount of food that the patient is able to eat while triggering a sense of satiation sooner than the patient would have experienced prior to
bariatric surgery
. The contents of the top chamber slowly pass on to the larger bottom chamber, which helps the patient feel full longer. Ultimately, the patient takes in fewer calories while feeling perfectly satisfied with much smaller portions of food.

Prior to its approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the REALIZE™ Band underwent a three-year clinical trial. The 276 patients who participated in the trial lost an average of 42.8 percent of their excess weight. Roughly one-third of the patients lost at least 50 percent of their excess weight, and about one in ten lost 75 percent or more. Although the potential side effects associated with the device include nausea, constipation, vomiting, and gastroesophageal reflux, the health benefits of such massive weight loss are substantial and, in many cases, could even be life-saving.

The surgical procedure used to implant the REALIZE™ Band is done endoscopically, meaning that the surgeon is able to monitor his or her work on a video screen and only very small incisions and surgical tools are necessary. Once in place, the band can be easily adjusted to allow the patient to eat more or less food as necessary. The safe saline solution that is used to fill the silicone band can be removed or added in controlled amounts, allowing the surgeon to make extremely precise modifications to the size of the stomach chambers. In the end, if it turns out that the REALIZE™ Band is not an appropriate or desirable solution to a patient’s obesity, it can be removed with minimal risk of damage to the stomach. This factor alone makes the band preferable to more permanent forms of bariatric surgery for many patients.

As with any surgically implanted device, the REALIZE™ Band does carry some risk, and it should not be seen as a first-line, easy method of losing excess weight. The treatment is appropriate only for the morbidly obese and, even then, only for those who have struggled and had little or no success with traditional avenues of weight loss. For those who are good candidates, however, the REALIZE™ Band offers the hope for a future without the dangers of carrying too much weight. The path to reach a healthy body weight will still be long and occasionally frustrating, but the destination will be well worth the journey.

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