Mayo Clinic Develops New, Less Invasive Weight Loss Procedure

Updated: 05/18/2014 10:38 PM
Created: 05/15/2014 10:42 PM
By: Naomi Pescovitz

Have you ever attempted to lose weight? Many have tried weight loss pills, frozen dinners or fad diets to drop a few pounds.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have gone to the extreme, having surgical procedures like gastric bypass. Now, doctors at Mayo Clinic have developed a weight loss procedure called Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty. The procedure does not involve drastic surgery or a long recovery. One of the first patients to undergo the procedure is Cherish Grabau of Stewartville.

Grabau hates looking at old pictures. The woman she's seen in the mirror for more than a decade, is so far from who she used to be.

"In high school I was the little one, and pretty much after that, not so much anymore," Grabau said.

The 39-year-old mother of two put her family first. Her health and weight took the back seat.

"After the kids were born and busy taking care of them, and not taking care of myself as much," Grabau said.

As a cheer coach at Stewartville high school, Grabau fell into the "cheer coach diet."

"It was a lot of eating on the run, concession stand foods, packing some things to munch on on the bus," Grabau said.

She tried everything to cut the weight.

"Whatever you can think of, I've probably tried it," Grabau said.

Before she realized, the 5'2" mom weighed 187 pounds.

"Being so short, I didn't carry it very well," Grabau said.

Though her confidence was low, Grabau would soon learn that her height and weight made her the perfect fit for something revolutionary happening at mayo clinic.

A new study was underway for a weight loss procedure not meant for the morbidly obese.

"This is radically different from the surgery because the surgery is radical," said Dr. Christopher Gostout, Consultant at Mayo Clinic and Director of the Developmental Endoscopy Unit.

Gostout and Dr. Barham Abu Dayyeh, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Mayo, had developed a way to shrink a person's stomach, without the scarring or slicing through the skin.

"We're just working from inside the stomach," Gostout said.

The surgeons used a special tool called an endoscope to go through the mouth, down the esophagus and into the stomach. A small sewing device is attached on top.

"We put one stitch in the front wall of the stomach, and we put another stitch on the back wall of the stomach. The stitches go completely through the wall of the stomach," Gostout said.

"And we keep that process up, stitch, stitch. We go to the middle of the stomach and we put a series of 5 to 6 stitches," Gostout said.

Like sewing a hem, each stitch has place and purpose.

"It's like living in Minnesota and cross country skiing. There's a rhythm to the procedure," Gostout said.

"We tighten the suture, and we pull it all, we gather it together," Gostout said.

The stomach takes a new shape and a new size.

"When we're done its about the size of an uncooked hot dog," Gostout said.

"Instead of having a big sac, you have a small tube that could accommodate only a smaller portion of the meal. And this smaller portion talks to the brain, tells it it's full earlier than before the procedure," Abu Dayyeh said.

For over-eaters, the desire and ability to keep eating and eating is stitched away.

"If you could eat two slices of pizza before the procedure, you're lucky if you can get down more than five bites... You can't physically tolerate much volume. You're very very limited," Gostout said.

In the first year, the doctors tested the procedure on 10 different patients including Grabau. It has been more than six months since her procedure and she has lost 37 pounds.

"Literally overnight, my life changed... If I'm going to go out and have multiple courses, I'll have just a little bit of salad, just a little bit of soup, save room for the entree," Grabau said.

Once she is completely full Grabau can feel it.

"Like Thanksgiving. Only it happens much quicker," said Grabau.

After the procedure, she can only eat about a cup of food per sitting.

"I get full quickly but we don't always stop when we're full, which was part of my problem before. So I just have to push it away. I'll box it up, take it home, throw it away, whatever I have to do. Just stop," Grabau said.

Her doctors say her discipline is the key to her success.

"This is not a quick fix for obesity, this is a tool. So if you abuse the tool, it is going to fail you. But if you use it and work with it, it is going to reap its benefits," Abu Dayyeh said.

Months ago, Grabau hated shopping. Now she loves walking around the mall. She has dropped from a size 16 to a size 8.

"I'm okay now and I haven't been able to say that in many many years," Grabau said.

Grabau did not have to pay for the procedure because she was involved in the study. It will cost new patients about 10 thousand dollars and is not typically covered by insurance.

The target BMI range for the procedure is between 30 and 35.

The Mayo team is also training other doctors around the country. They have already worked with physicians in Boston, St. Louis, New York and California.

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