Living Well

Can the ORBERA® Intragastric Gastric Balloon Help You Lose Weight?

Last updated: Dec 19, 2016

For years, many of the one-third of adults who struggle with mild obesity have had limited options. If diet and exercise alone failed, they were typically ineligible for weight loss surgery. But now, there is a new technique that may jumpstart healthy eating habits in people who have a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 40 kg/m2, which is considered to be obese.

Summit Medical Group (SMG) is one of the few places in the tri-state area that offers a temporary weight loss device known as the ORBERA® Intragastric balloon. The balloon takes up space in the stomach so you feel fuller and eat smaller amounts of food.

“This is the first minimally invasive option available for people who are not excessively obese and have been unsuccessful with traditional dieting, exercise, and behavioral modification,” says Hazar Michael, MD, a gastroenterologist at SMG. “The device can help incentivize people to adopt a healthy lifestyle that has a tremendous impact on their overall physical and mental wellbeing.” 

The idea is similar to the lap-band or gastric sleeve, however the device only stays in for six months. It does not permanently change the shape of the stomach. During this half-year period, patients work with doctors and nutritionists to develop healthier eating and exercise habits.

What do the results show?

  • Patients that had the balloon in for six months lost an average of 30 pounds, or 40 percent of excess body weight, and 10 percent of total body weight.
  • Studies show that 75 percent of the weight lost at 6 months is maintained at 12 months after the balloon is removed. 
  • Individuals who were successful saw an improvement in obesity-related medical problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.

“The device allows patients to regroup after years of setbacks. When you lose that 30 pounds you have struggled with for five or more years, you look and feel great. You also lower your risk of obesity-related mortality from problems such as heart attack, stroke, and sleep apnea,” says J. Scott Gillin, MD, a gastroenterologist at SMG. “These results encourage people to maintain healthy habits when the balloon is removed.”  

What are the benefits of the ORBERA® Intragastric balloon?

  • Unlike invasive weight loss surgeries like gastric bypass or gastric sleeve, the balloon is reversible. The anatomy of the stomach stays the same and the system is removed after six months.
  • Since there is no incision or structural changes, there is less recovery time and fewer potentially serious short and long-term complications.  

How is the balloon placed?

Similar to an endoscopy, your doctor will perform the procedure at our onsite ambulatory surgery center. Here is what to expect:           

  • Once you are under sedation, your physician will perform a standard endoscopy to make sure your stomach looks healthy.
  • The deflated balloon, which is attached to a thin flexible tube, is then guided through the mouth and into the stomach.
  • Nearly 22 ounces of saline is then pushed through the tube to inflate the balloon.
  • The tube is then pulled out of the mouth and the balloon stays in the stomach. 
  • After six months, the balloon is removed during a similar procedure.

What should I expect after the procedure?

For the first week after placement, nausea, vomiting, and cramping are common. You will be given a variety of medications to manage your symptoms. By the second or third week you will begin to feel much better. It is important that you adhere to the dietary modification to help manage your symptoms and ensure successful weight loss.

During the first week you may experience: 

  • A foreign feeling in your abdomen
  • Sensation of extreme fullness
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Bloating and diarrhea

“You wake up feeling like you have had the biggest Thanksgiving meal ever,” describes Dr. Gillin. “That severe sensation of fullness prevents you from eating too much because you will feel nauseated.”

Who is eligible for the balloon?

Candidates must be:

  • Between a BMI of 30 to 40 kg/m2 (typically 50-80 pounds overweight)
  • 18 years of age or older
  • Willing to follow a 12-month weight loss program that includes diet and exercise. This includes regular meetings with nutritionists to learn healthy eating habits.
  • Individuals who have abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract, a history of prior stomach surgeries or excessive bleeding, or are in poor overall health should not use the device.    

“The balloon can help patients get where they want to be, but nothing we do can prevent patients from overeating long-term,” says Dr. Michael. “I tell patients not to invest in this type of intervention if they are not willing to change their lifestyle as well.”

What is body mass index?

You calculate body mass index (BMI) by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters. BMI categories include:

  • Underweight – less than 18.5
  • Healthy weight – 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight – 25.0-29.9
  • Obese – 30.0-39.9
  • Extreme Obesity – more than 40.0

References:

  1. Interview with Hazar Michael, a gastrointestinal surgeon at SMG, 11/15/16
  2. Interview with J. Scott Gillin, a gastrointestinal surgeon at SMG, 11/15/16
  3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “Calculate Your Body Mass Index.” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Web. 18 November 2016. 
  4. ORBERA®. “About ORBERA® ORBERA®. Web. 18 November 2016.
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