Medical Frontier: Brain Surgery for Weight Loss


Poe said the procedure didn't hurt but found the stabilization device the doctors put on her head uncomfortable. "It's just real tight," she said. "Like your head is in a vice."

After about an hour of the most delicate movements, doctors believed they'd reached the precise spot. When the electrical current was first introduced, doctors asked Poe if she felt hungry or full, and also whether she felt hot or cold.

"I'm getting warm now," she said. "Yeah, I was cold." The tested electricity level was lowered. Poe was unaware of when the doctors signaled for a change in the electrical current, so she couldn't play into what she believed they might want to hear.

"Tell me if that changes anything," said Whiting.

"Yeah, I'm cooled off," said Poe. "I really am. Yeah, I am pretty cool."

The so-called thermostat of the brain, where we get our sense of temperature, is right next to the region where the stomach is also controlled.

Poe said she felt fine, and even at a moment like that, her favorite beverage came to mind. "I sure could use a Pepsi, though," she said. "I told him to find the Pepsi button. He must have found it. Woo!"

Almost miraculously, doctors were controlling Poe's stomach through her brain.

"And then they started to turn it up, and I had to tell them if I felt anything different. Like I started getting real hot. And then I felt like I was going to throw up," Poe said later.

"They knew exactly every pinpoint," she said. "It was like they knew my body. They knew how my body was reacting to everything, and they knew what to do to make it back where it should be."

The surgery lasted three hours. Poe remained in the hospital, and two pacemaker-type devices were implanted into her chest to control the amount of voltage sent to her brain.

"You want to do a touchdown end-zone dance, because it was exactly what we wanted to get with the location and the voltage," said Whiting immediately after the surgery.

Whiting also discussed why maintaining a constant dialogue with Poe was so important. For more than 40 minutes, doctors kept talking, asking Poe repeatedly how she was feeling.

"She wants to? theoretically give us the answers we want to hear and what we want to (do) is, without her knowing, change parameters to see if it was consistent," Whiting explained. "And in fact there were some things early on that weren't consistent, and we knew they weren't for real, but the nausea findings were very consistent so we very well [could] prove that they were for real."

Creating a Sensation of Fullness

The morning after surgery, Poe was irrepressible.

"I didn't think I'd feel this good today," she said. "I really feel good. I could go home if they'd let me, because I'm that confident about it. I don't worry about going home and something happening.

"I think the best part of the surgery was the fact that I was awake."

"And I got to hear everything that was going on. I could hear the drill drilling into my head, and I thought, 'Oh my God.' And it was like a big bunch of pressure, like when you push down on something. I could feel all the pressure. And then I could actually feel the drill going through the bone into where it wanted to be."

Three weeks after the surgery, the voltage inside Poe's brain pacemakers was turned on, to be increased over time. According to doctors, it would be several months before any weight loss would be noticeable.

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