Treating diabetes with experimental surgery

March 21, 2012 2:48:06 PM PDT
Type 2 diabetes is a growing medical problem and the treatments are complex and difficult for some.

While looking for a cure has been a long time medical goal, a new type of surgery done in Brazil has arrived in this country. It's experimental, but surgeons say some people could be cured.

Doctors in Brazil say it offers about a 50 percent chance of cure. It involves moving a part of the intestinal track (the ileum) to another part.

Marie Alonso's diabetes forced her to give up her favorite foods.

"I just wanted to be like everybody else-have dinner and not have to count my carbs and you know not have to give insulin," she said.

Despite taking insulin 3 times a day and checking her blood sugar four times a day, she's already losing feeling in her feet.

"I've known so many people who have their feet amputated their legs amputated and that's not what I want for myself," she said.

So, she tried something radical - this experimental surgery she hopes will cure her diabetes. Surgeons in Houston brought it from Brazil.

Dr. Eric Wilson and Dr. Brad Snyder used a robot to make 5 tiny holes in her abdomen. Then they removed the ileum at the end of her small intestine and moved it to the top, right next to the stomach.

"The ileum has special cells that produce special hormones and these hormones have a very positive effect on diabetes, they improve insulin sensitivity, make the pancreas work better," Dr. Wilson said.

In Brazil, half the diabetes were cured by the surgery and others improved. They expect patients here to do even better. In a few weeks, Marie Alonso will learn if she too can say goodbye to diabetes.

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