Losing weight is not an easy task for many people, and there are numerous medically supervised methods to help overweight, obese and morbid obese patients with weight loss, including diet and exercise, pre-packed meals, pharmacotherapy and surgery. A weight loss balloon is a temporary, minimally invasive medical device used to treat obesity that is inserted into the stomach in order to facilitate weight loss.

A weight loss balloon is a temporary treatment, during which an inflatable device is placed inside the stomach to limit food intake. The device does not provoke weight loss on its own, but by occupying a large part of the stomach, the patient will feel fuller faster and with smaller amounts of food. The therapy is indicated for patients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 30 to 70 who are not eligible for weight loss surgery or who are looking for a temporary weight loss option. Being motivated to change behavioral habits and accepting both the implant and after-care are key to the device’s success.

Weight Loss Balloon Overview

The weight loss balloon is inserted into the stomach while still deflated during a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure. The physician uses an endoscopic camera to pass the balloon through the mouth and esophagus to the stomach while the patient is sedated. After the placement of the device, it is filled with a saline solution to enlarge it and fit the walls of the stomach. The temporary treatment can last up to six months with the device inserted and is followed by an equal period of medical supervision.

Unlike bariatric surgery, this procedure does not involve incisions, stitches or scarring and the patients may return home few hours after the placement of the balloon, which also does not change the size or shape of the stomach. Patients gradually initiate a new dietary regimen, starting with the ingestion of liquids, followed by a transition to solid foods. In order to accomplish the treatment’s goals, regular exercise and a healthy diet are determinant.

Types of Weight Loss Balloons

The ReShape Integrated Dual Balloon System is the first treatment to include not one balloon, but two. The device developed by the company ReShape Medical, Inc. was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July, 2015. It is particularly designed for obese patients with comorbidities, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.

The ORBERA Intragastric Balloon System is a device developed by Apollo Endosurgery, Inc. and approved by the FDA in August, 2015. The soft silicone, expandable intragastric device is expected to result in a 15 to 25 kg weight loss, which is dependent on behavioral changes along with the implementation of the device.

Advantages and Risks of a Weight Loss Balloon

Medically supervised weight loss programs are recommended according to the patient’s characteristics and treatment goals — a decision that is usually discussed between patients and physicians. The weight loss balloon has advantages and disadvantages. This type of treatment is usually an alternative to surgical procedures. Weight loss surgery is usually the last resort for obese patients, after the failure of previous attempts with other treatment methods. Surgery is a more an aggressive and in some cases involves an irreversible procedure, while it may not be recommended for certain patients due to risks.

However, the risks of inserting a weight loss balloon must also be considered by patients and physicians. It is a temporary solution and may not be tolerated by all patients, and as a consequence, the results may as well not be as desirable as with surgery. Leakage or bursting of the balloon, a rupture or bleeding in the stomach or windpipe provoked during the placement of the device and gastric problems like reflux, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting are risks associated to the treatment. The development of ulcers is also a rare, but possible side effect.

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