AspireAssist Stomach Pump for Weight Loss

Overweight women at nutritionist's office

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The AspireAssist is a weight loss device approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that allows patients to empty a portion of their stomach contents after eating to facilitate weight loss. Sometimes called a gastric emptying system or stomach pump, the device has received mixed reviews in the health community.

Overview

There are several non-surgical devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration to help individuals with obesity lose weight. AspireAssist is one of them. Approved by the FDA in 2016, it helps reduce the number of calories absorbed by the body so that weight loss happens.

The device is only approved for patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 to 55. These are people with Class II to Class III obesity and who have a very high to extremely high risk for disease as compared to individuals with healthy weight.

But just having obesity does not make you a good candidate for the AspireAssist stomach pump. The device is intended for people who have already tried traditional weight loss methods without success. And you must be willing to change your lifestyle. Counseling is provided to help you change the type of foods that you eat, the quantity of food that you eat, and other daily habits. These lifestyle habits will help you keep the pounds off for good.

There are some patients who are not good candidates for AspireAssist. These include:

  • Patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Patients that have difficulty swallowing or digesting food
  • Patients with persistent stomach ulcers or stomach pain
  • People with lung or heart disease
  • And patients with eating disorders, including bulimia, night eating syndrome, or binge eating disorder

Both the and FDA and the Aspire Bariatrics website provide a more comprehensive list of patients who should not use the device.

How It Works

You do not need to undergo invasive surgery to implant the stomach pumping system. The procedure is performed with an endoscope, so only a small incision is required. You'll be under twilight (light) sedation during the procedure, and it takes approximately 15 minutes to perform. Most patients are able to leave the doctor's office within two hours.

Once the Aspire Assist device is in place, you'll have a flat, disc-shaped button (the Skin-Port) on the outside of your belly that connects to a tube (the A-tube) on the inside of your stomach. After you eat a meal, you wait about 20-30 minutes before connecting a small discreet pumping device to your Skin-Port. The device allows you to empty about 30% of what you ate into a toilet or other receptacle for disposal. The emptying process takes about 5-10 minutes to complete and should be performed in a private space like a bathroom.

Because you empty a large portion of the food you eat at mealtime, your body doesn't absorb those calories. This helps you to create the calorie deficit needed for weight loss, and some patients slim down as a result. You'll also receive medical checkups and lifestyle counseling during the time that you have the device in place. The healthy habits you learn during counseling can help you to maintain your AspireAssist weight loss in case you decide to remove the device.

Anticipated Weight Loss

As with any weight loss device or program, your results will depend on your adherence to the program. There are techniques that you'll learn after the pump is in place that will help you lose weight effectively. For example, patients are advised to chew their food slowly to aid in the emptying process. Slow, mindful eating also allows the brain to recognize signs of fullness so that you eat less food.

During clinical trials, when researchers studied weight loss with the device, they compared patients who received the stomach pump along with weight loss counseling to patients who received counseling alone. In total, 171 patients were studied, 111 of whom had the pump inserted.

After one year, the patients with AspireAssist lost an average of 31.2 pounds (12.1% of their total body weight or 31.5% of their excess body weight). Patients with counseling alone lost an average of 9.0 pounds (3.6% of their total body weight and 9.8% of their excess weight). Patients in both groups saw small improvements in obesity-related conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and quality of life.

Side Effects

You may experience certain side effects if you choose to use the stomach pumping system for weight loss. According to the FDA, endoscopic procedures are associated with risks including pain, abdominal bloating, indigestion, bleeding, infection, nausea, vomiting, or sedation-related breathing problems.

But the Food and Drug Administration also says that the most common side effects seen in the clinical trials were related to the tubing implant site. Side effects included bleeding, irritation, and infection. Other implant-related complaints included pain, nausea and/or vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and a change in bowel habits.

Costs

Currently, AspireAssist is not covered by most insurance plans. That means that you'll have to pay out of pocket for the device, medical care, and lifestyle counseling. The total price of AspireAssist weight loss is estimated to range from $7,000 to $13,000.

Reviews and Concerns

Because the AspireAssist uses a non-traditional and some might say "extreme" method to help you lose weight, there have been concerns expressed by some experts in the health community. Some patients may also have questions about whether or not stomach pump weight loss is safe and whether or not it will really work.

One of the most common concerns is related to lifestyle changes. Consumers and health experts alike wonder if this device really helps people to change their eating habits or if it simply gives them an easy way to dispose of excess calories. Some wonder if patients might even eat more food as a result.

Aspire Bariatrics says increased food intake doesn't happen. According to their website, "There is no evidence in our clinical studies of patients using the device as an excuse to eat more, or eating more to compensate for aspirated calories. In fact, clinical data indicate that patients exhibit better self-restraint, less disinhibition, and no tendency to binge eat."

But leaders in the eating disorders community disagree. They feel that using the device can lead to unhealthy behavior. Eva Maria Trujillo, MD, FAED, is the president of the Academy of Eating Disorders. After the FDA approved AspireAssist, she gathered leaders in the disordered eating community and sent a letter to the organization asking them to revoke approval of the device.

"As experts in the field of eating disorders, we believe that this device is dangerous and represents a truly disturbing incidence of technology serving to perpetuate pathology," she wrote, expressing concerns that stomach pumping can be used to help patients continue unhealthy eating behavior. "Though the FDA has stated that this product is not intended for use on people with eating disorders, we consider this disclaimer to be woefully inadequate due to the under-diagnosis of people with eating disorders, specifically binge eating disorder and higher weight anorexia nervosa."

In media interviews, other physicians, nutritionists, and weight loss experts have expressed concern over this unusual method to treat obesity. But sources who support AspireAssist say that since traditional approaches continue to provide limited results in the treatment of obesity, then this method should be available to patients who want to slim down to improve their health.

Comparisons With Other Methods

If you are considering a medical treatment for weight loss and you don't want to undergo invasive surgery, there are several options for you to consider. Most experts recommend that you try traditional diet and exercise approaches first. Your healthcare provider may be able to refer you to a registered dietitian, physical therapist, or behavioral health specialist to provide personalized assistance.

There are also prescription weight loss medications that you can discuss with your doctor. But if those options don't work, there are four weight-loss devices that are identified by the FDA.

  • Gastric emptying (like AspireAssist). This option is not covered by insurance and has some but not overwhelming support from the weight loss community.
  • Gastric bands (also called LAP bands) have become a well-established method for weight loss in patients with obesity and some individuals with overweight. This method can cost up to $15,000 but may be covered by insurance. The method also carries risks and side effects.
  • Electrical stimulation systems (like vBloc) in which an electrical stimulator is placed in the abdomen to block nerve activity between the brain and stomach. This method is about the same price as weight loss surgery (approximately $18,000 to $20,000) and may not be covered by insurance. It has also received some limited support from healthcare providers.
  • Gastric balloon systems (like Orbera) take up space in the stomach to reduce the amount of food you can eat. Costs range from $6,500 to $10,000 and are usually not covered by insurance.

The best source of information about the weight loss method most suitable for you is your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor about your health history and your concerns to find a method that fits your budget and your lifestyle.

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9 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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