Karen's Story

The following relates one patient's experience with gastric electrical stimulation for the treatment of chronic, intractable (drug refractory) nausea and vomiting associated with gastroparesis of diabetic or idiopathic origin. Effectiveness of this device for this use has not been demonstrated. Results vary and not every response is the same. Ask your doctor if gastric electrical stimulation is right for you.

Living With Gastroparesis

Karen, a 47-year-old mother of three, loves to participate in activities with her large extended family – from school events to church functions to birthday celebrations. In fact, her family often depends on her to plan and organize multi-generational gatherings.

In late-2001, however, complications from Karen’s diabetes led to gastroparesis, a condition characterized by chronic nausea and vomiting. The condition left Karen bedridden.

"The nausea was so bad, day and night, that I had to stop all activities," Karen recalls. "I could not sit up or converse with people. I couldn’t even cry about it, because crying made me feel sicker. A simple activity like watching television became impossible."

Initial Treatments

Karen tried prescription and over-the-counter drugs in search of relief, but nothing helped. Behavioural therapy and breathing techniques failed too.

"I could never be far from a bathroom," explains Karen. "My diet consisted of a little yogurt, crackers, and a food supplement. Occasionally, I sucked on a lemon to relieve the nausea."

How Gastric Electrical Stimulation Helped Karen

After a year of symptoms, Karen met with a team of physicians whose testing indicated that gastric electrical stimulation might relieve her chronic nausea and vomiting symptoms.

"I was thrilled to have an option that might give me my life back," Karen says. "The gastric emptying test and endoscopy before the implant were tolerable compared to other procedures I’ve had. In fact, the only discomfort I felt was my chronic nausea."

Unfortunately, Karen’s excitement met with a major obstacle. Her healthcare insurance company considered neurostimulators to be experimental devices, and wouldn’t cover it under her plan. With support from her physicians and family, Karen won her fight to gain reimbursement for the implant after an 18-month delay.

Outcome

Karen underwent a procedure for a neurostimulator in 2004. While the effectiveness of gastric electrical stimulation hasn’t been shown, and results differ for each patient, it has helped Karen. "Since receiving Enterra®, I’ve gone from focusing on coping with my gastroparesis to living a regular life," she says.

"I was able to eat a normal diet again and participate in family activities, including our regular cook-outs," Karen says. "One of my greatest thrills was being able to eat a hamburger again."

Karen credits her family for bolstering her courage, and her physicians for teaching her how to care for herself properly. "If I still run into problems, it’s because I’ve made poor dietary decisions," she explains.

"Ultimately, the responsibility of what goes into your stomach lies with you."

Potential Side Effects and Complications of Gastric Electrical Stimulation

In addition to risks related to a medical procedure, complications from gastric electrical stimulation can include pain, infection, lead penetration, lead/device problems, irritation/inflammation, uncomfortable/unwanted stimulation, and tissue damage, among others.

Safety Information

Safety information concerning EnterraTM therapy
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This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2010

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