YOUR HEALTH: Freezing your appetite to lose weight

ATLANTA, Georgia – Melissa Donovan is a busy nurse and mother who has been yo-yo dieting for years.

"I have lost and gained the same ten pounds probably six times."

When the scale tipped over 200 she knew it was time for a change.

"I think the solution for long term weight loss may be simpler than you might think," explained Dr. David Prologo, and interventional radiologist at the Emory University School of Medicine.

Dr. David Prologo says the reason yo-yo dieting doesn't work is most people start a diet and exercise program and then quit when their body resists.

"So they don`t reach this point where everything changes and everything gets easy."

That's where cryoablation comes in, a procedure he's performing at Emory University that works by temporarily freezing the hunger nerve.

"We use a cryoablation probe. We decrease the temperature to minus 40 degrees. Thereby decreasing the signal in the nerve."

He says by freezing the vagus nerve which carries hunger signals to the brain you decrease the desire to eat.  The nerve regenerates within a year.

"But in this case we only need that eight to 12 month window to get people over the hump. So far we have done the procedure on 20 patients, 99.5% of them report decreased appetite."

Dr. Prologo explained that the vagus nerve comes down and divides into two parts and doctors are freezing one of those parts.

"What we're trying to do by decreasing the signals in that nerve temporarily is open up a window for folks to get through so that they can live healthy on their own."

TREATMENT:   Cryotherapy, also called cryosurgery, cryoablation, percutaneous cryotherapy or targeted cryoablation therapy, is a minimally invasive treatment that uses extreme cold to freeze and destroy diseased tissue, including cancer cells.   Although cryotherapy and cryoablation can be used interchangeably, the term "cryosurgery" is best reserved for cryotherapy performed using an open, surgical approach.   During cryotherapy, liquid nitrogen or high pressure argon gas flows into a needle-like applicator (a cryoprobe) creating intense cold that is placed in contact with diseased tissue.   Physicians use image-guidance techniques such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MR) to help guide the cryoprobes to treatment sites located inside the body.  (Source: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=cryo)

The trial will examine patients using self-reported questionnaires regarding physical activity, appetite and living habits as well as data measurement.   Participants will attend five visits for evaluation and doctors will follow their progress for six months after the procedure.   The outpatient cryoablation procedure takes about an hour.

"It's been a game changer," says Jenni Cawood.

Cawood dropped two dress sizes after the procedure.

"I don't have to eat the doughnut, I don't have to eat chicken nuggets."

Melissa Donovan has shed 28 pounds so far and has to remind herself to eat.

"I don't crave sweets," she explained.  "I don't crave salt, I don't crave food."

Helping to get off the dieting roller coaster and live a healthier lifestyle.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.