Electrical device eases gastroparesis symptoms

Electrical device eases gastroparesis symptoms

Not two months ago, Terry Schickel coped with nausea and vomiting “just about every day of the week, all day long.”

For four years, he suffered from the disease gastroparesis, a crippling condition in which the stomach is all but paralyzed, causing it to empty very slowly. That can mean constant nausea, vomiting of undigested food, distention of the abdomen and an unwarranted feeling of fullness.

“I couldn't hold water down. Over the last four years, I've been in the ER or admitted to the hospital well over 20 times,” said Schickel, an electrician and Meridian resident.

In July 2016, Schickel heard about Dr. Hubert Spears, a surgeon at the University of Mississippi Medical Center Grenada. Spears' specialties include implanting in a patient's abdomen a gastric stimulator - much like a pacemaker - that sends small electrical pulses to the nerves and smooth muscle that line the wall of the stomach.  The pulses encourage the stomach to contract, which causes it to empty.

It's not a cure, but the gastric stimulator can greatly ease symptoms and allow sufferers to regain their lives. Spears implanted Schickel's gastric stimulator March 9, and Schickel is optimistic about what the coming months will bring.

His symptoms have “probably been cut in half, for sure,” said Schickel, 36. “I stay overly full sometimes, and I'm a little nauseous on occasion. If I can get to where I only throw up once a week, I'd be happy.”

Spears is among a small handful of surgeons in Mississippi who implant gastric stimulators.  Patients flock to him from the far corners of the state, plus surrounding states including Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. Spears has performed more than 100 of the procedures since 2015.

The device was pioneered more than two decades ago by Dr. Thomas Abell, an affiliate faculty member and former director of UMMC's Division of Digestive Diseases. Abell now is a world-recognized researcher and chair of gastroenterology in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at the University of Louisville.

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Jackson Heart Study names Sims chief science officer

If human health is a puzzle to be solved, then Dr. Mario Sims is putting the pieces together as the new chief science officer of the Jackson Heart Study.

“I've always been fascinated by the process of teasing out and dismantling the social determinants of health,” said Sims, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The JHS is a community-based prospective cohort study of cardiovascular disease in more than 5,000 African-Americans in Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties. Initiated in 2000, the study is a partnership between UMMC, Jackson State University and Tougaloo College. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities fund the study.

Sims will work with the JHS director to promote research collaborations, mentorship and scientific productivity.

A population health scientist and medical sociologist by training, Sims studies the “social factors that impact health and disease,” he said.

While clinicians measure weight or blood pressure to determine disease risk, these aren't the only factors that influence health. Medical sociologists consider other factors, such as socioeconomic status and neighborhood.

Sims gave an example. You're prescribed an antihypertensive drug. If taken as directed, it will control your blood pressure. But sometimes popping a pill isn't as easy as it seems. You may not be able to afford the medication. Maybe the pharmacy is too far from your home or you can't walk there safely. Perhaps a neighbor had an adverse reaction to the medication, so they discourage you from taking it.

“Poverty, neighborhood safety, social structures…these kinds of factors influence behavior,” Sims said, and in turn impact health. When members of a subgroup face similar barriers to health compared to other subgroups, poor health outcomes likely contribute to widening health inequalities.

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Jackson Heart Study names Sims chief science officer

Ob-gyn professor, maternal-fetal med director joins UMMC faculty

Ob-gyn professor, maternal-fetal med director joins UMMC faculty

The Medical Center is proud to announce the following addition to its faculty and leadership staff.

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SOD earns Gov's GIVE award; neurosurgery prof ascends to ASIA presidency

The Office of the Governor and Volunteer Mississippi recognize the School of Dentistry for its outstanding volunteer outreach, while a professor of neurosurgery assumes a national spinal injury organization's presidency. 

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SOD earns Gov's GIVE award; neurosurgery prof ascends to ASIA presidency
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