The heart attack and stroke that left Terri Schiavo with brain damage was triggered 15 years ago by her bulimia. At the University of Minnesota, researchers are trying to find a cure for that.
They're implanting what looks like a pace-maker in the chest of severe bulimics. It connects to the patient's vagus nerve, which tells them when they're full. That's when normally, they would make themselves vomit, but what this device does, is eliminate the urge to purge, by sending timed pulses to the brain.
"I was having about three to four episodes a day, bulimic episodes. And after it was implanted I was having maybe two, and now I'm at total abstinence," says Jennifer Liptak, who suffered from bulimia.
"I will tell you, we're all awestruck," says Patricia Faris, Ph.D., at the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Faris believes someday this device could help nearly a million women overcome severe bulimia. Also, since it supports the theory that the problem becomes more physical than mental, she hopes it will change the way insurance companies treat patients with eating disorders.
The university study looked at six women with severe bulimia. All six have shown dramatic results. The next step for researchers is to find out if the device can have an effect on less severe cases of bulimia.