People with severe stomach disorders - sometimes causing vomiting - can be treated with electrical impulses from a pacemaker in the stomach, a new method recommended in a study from Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

The gastric procedure entails electrical stimulation that reduces nausea after a few days in the hospital. In the clinical evaluations, 22 of 27 patients had fewer symptoms as a result of initial temporary stimulation, and 20 of these then had a permanent pacemaker surgically inserted into the stomach. Correlated tests found 90% long term effectiveness with the pacemaker method, and in another study, electrical stimulation led to fewer days in hospital in the year following treatment.

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Simple skin level stimulation identifies patients who may benefit from the treatment, and gastric electrical stimulation does not appear to affect the stomach locally. "We believe instead that the stimulation somehow acts on the brain's center for nausea and vomiting by activating the neural pathways running from the stomach to the brain," explains junior doctor Stina Andersson, a doctoral student at the Department of Internal Medicine.

Frequently, diabetics suffer severe vomiting due to their disease, although patients with other severe stomach disorders can benefit from this treatment. As a potential example of the gastric pacemaker concept, around 20% of the Swedish population is believed to suffer from functional dyspepsia, or gastric catarrh, a condition in which the stomach empties normally, but symptoms such as chronic nausea and vomiting can occur in more severe cases.

"The treatment could, for example, work on intractable nausea following chemotherapy or extreme nausea during pregnancy," notes Andersson.