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New drug-free device tackles post-op nausea

Reletex, a neuromodulation device worn on the wrist, generates electrical pulses to modulate the brain's anti-nausea feedback mechanisms.

When I came to after getting my wisdom teeth removed in college, the nausea was actually worse than the pain in the back of my mouth. Every time my mother stepped on the gas on the ride home, I had to lean out the window, just in case.

Neurowave Medical Technologies

Postoperative nausea is not only common (a 2002 study shows that 30 percent of all patients and 70 percent of high-risk patients experience post-op vomiting), it's often rated worse than postoperative pain.

Relief may have arrived via Reletex, a new prescription-only neuromodulation device worn on the wrist that is noninvasive and drug-free. It works by generating specific electrical pulses that stimulate parts of the brain to modulate anti-nausea feedback mechanisms. Those signals travel through the vagus nerve to the digestive system to alleviate both nausea and gastric discomfort.

Best of all, Reletex has been shown to work within minutes and comes with a control with which patients can change stimulation levels depending on symptoms.

"Emesis [aka vomiting] is one of the most widespread yet under-reported problems after surgery, affecting almost every surgical patient," says Farhan Hussain, CEO of Chicago-based Neurowave Medical Technologies, which developed Reletex. "We... are committed to lowering the suffering that emesis causes to patients and their families, even after they are discharged from the hospital."

The FDA has cleared Reletex for treatment of postoperative nausea as an adjunct to prescription antiemetics. The device comes in two models, one intended to last three days (PCN-3) and the other to last seven (PCN-7). It requires applying a gel between the wrist and the device, and while using it involves dealing with an ongoing tingling sensation, very few side effects (besides isolated cases of skin irritation), were reported in clinical trials.

A company spokesperson says the three-day model costs $150 and the seven-day costs $225.

Update, 9:40 a.m. PST on Friday: Pricing details were added.