Doctors have alternative weight loss option for patients

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Two-hundred thousand Americans undergo weight loss surgery every year, choosing methods like gastric bypass, banding, or surgical balloons to shrink the stomach and decrease food intake. Now, doctors have another option for patients when diet and exercise is not enough.

“The most I ever saw on the scale was 409 pounds,” Eric Wilcoxon told Ivanhoe.

Standing six feet, four inches tall, 44-year-old Eric leaves a big impression. These days, Eric is more than 135 pounds lighter after a lifetime struggle with diet and exercise that impacted his life and his health.

Eric detailed, “I sat in my chair for probably the last two years before I had this done.”

Eric’s wife, Christy, explained, “When it’s your husband, you don’t want anything to happen to him. I’m getting emotional here. I don’t want him to die.”

Vladimir Kushnir, M.D., a bariatric endoscopic surgeon at Washington University in St. Louis, recommended Eric undergo an endoscopic procedure to implant the Aspire Assist.

“The device is a modified feeding tube with a larger external portion and a smaller internal portion,” said Dr. Kushnir.

Thirty minutes after a meal, Eric connects the tube to a water canister, and pumps out about one-third of his stomach.

“Similar to what happens with weight loss surgery, some of the food you eat doesn’t go where it naturally would, which helps you lose weight because you don’t absorb as many of the calories,” Dr. Kushnir told Ivanhoe.

Eric said, “A lot of people do think it’s gross, but I’m really not overly concerned about what other people think.”

Eric watches what he eats in order for the Aspire to work, he drinks a lot of water, and chews his food a lot.

Eric said, “People don’t comprehend how much you have to chew in order to do this. This tube in my belly is no bigger than an ink pen sitting on your desk.”

Eric credits that tube plus a healthy diet with allowing him to do things he couldn’t before, like coach his son’s football team.

The FDA approved the Aspire Assist last year for obese patients. Patients must not have undergone any other surgical weight loss procedure to be considered for Aspire Assist. Unlike other weight loss procedures, the Aspire Assist device can be removed.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.