A new, rare procedure at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Hospital helps patients improve quality of life

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – Imagine not being able to process your food. A Niagara Falls man had trouble with it for years. He feels much better after a local doctor performed a new, rare procedure to treat it.

Kevin Howey told News 4 that he’s struggled with nausea and pain for years. “I was constantly throwing up, having bad pain in my side. It was just something that was reoccurring frequently,” he said.

The 28-year-old has a rare condition called gastroparesis. Doctors say it’s as if the someone’s stomach is paralyzed.

“We have electrical impulses that stimulate the lower part of the stomach. That helps us to digest food. That helps the food to be pushed out of the stomach,” Dr. Bala Thatigotla, the director of minimally invasive surgery at the Niagara Falls Medical Memorial Center, said.

If someone has gastroparesis, the electrical impulses are blocked and the stomach won’t empty itself.

In some cases, diabetes can cause this. However, most of the time, there’s no cause. That’s why it took doctors years to diagnose Howey.

After 5 years of suffering, he decided to get a gastric pacemaker implant. He was elated when he found out that he didn’t have to travel far to get the procedure done.

“Originally I was going to Cleveland to do it, but it’s a [lot] to travel to Cleveland and back constantly. So when I found out that Dr. Thatigotla was looking to do this surgery, I was happy. It was local. It was the best thing I could do,” Howey said. He’s the hospital’s first patient to receive it.

Dr. Thatigotla, who’s an advanced laparoscopic and robitic surgeon, performed it. “This implant has two electrodes. We positioned the electrodes in the lower part of the stomach. We stitch it up and then this is actually positioned under the skin. Then we use this programmer to activate the electrical impulses,” he said.

Dr. Thatigotla said the implant is not a cure. It’s meant to improve the quality of life for patients.

So far, Kevin said he feels great. “Right now, I’m feeling amazing. I feel a lot better than I was over the last 5 years. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time.”

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