A Surgical Cure for Diabetes?
A new, experimental surgery could make type 2 diabetes disappear in some patients. While doctors have refrained from calling it a cure, some believe a duodenal jejunal bypass may be the first step in finding a surgical solution to the country's diabetic epidemic.
"We have started the ball rolling as far as surgical treatment of diabetes, and I think [it's] going to pick up speed," said Dr. Mahdu Rangraj of Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle, N.Y.
Rangraj and Dr. Leonard Maffucci performed the surgical procedure as a part of a clinical trail on type 2 diabetes patient Rocco Turso.
For more than six years, Turso couldn't go anywhere without a lot of medicine to treat his condition, which included three insulin shots daily and digesting several pills. Still, his condition continued to worsen.
"I could see my vision was getting a little blurry. I saw in my feet that my toenails, some got a little bit yellow," he said. "The diabetes was winning, not me."
Turso fought back by becoming the first man in America to undergo the surgery for diabetes.
As part of the procedure, Rangraj and Maffucci cut off the first foot of Turso's small intestine and then reattached the rest.
The procedure redirects the digestive track in order to prevent food from coming in contact with the first part of the small intestine.
"We're stopping the food from coming in contact with the intestine and that is what seems to work," Rangraj said.
The small intestine is where some hormones that control blood sugar levels are secreted, and Rangraj said the bypass is reversible.
The 62-year-old Turso saw dramatic results almost instantly following his March 17 surgery. The day after his surgery, Turso's blood sugar levels dropped, and since then they have stabilized to normal levels.
Turso said he has more energy than before.
"Having your life back again is really something. To be able to do what you want to do, when want to do it, so that's gonna be a good one, he said.
To date, the Sound Shore surgeons are the only ones in the U.S. offering the surgery, but doctors in India and Mexico also are conducting their own studies, and one Brazil surgeon already has performed 70 surgeries.
April 13, 2008
By JUJU CHANG, TRACEY MARX and IMAEYEN