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Can the new stomach balloons be the way of future weight loss today?

For many years in many countries the gastric balloon has been used to help some patients lose weight as an option instead of performing weight loss surgery.  As most people well know obesity worldwide is a major health concern and in the United States about 2 out of 3 adults are obese or overweight in some shape or form.  As a matter of fact, half of the world population will be overweight or obese in a mere 15 years.  With being obese or overweight comes health risks such as Type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, fatty liver and osteoarthritis.

What are these new gastric balloons for weight loss surgery?

When it was first developed the gastric balloon was a silicone balloon that is was placed by a weight loss professional or bariatric surgeon through an endoscopic outpatient procedure.  This balloon was placed in the patient’s stomach through the mouth and then inflated.  The concept of the gastric balloon is that the patient will feel fuller quicker thus causing them to eat less and lose weight.  The gastric balloon is typically in place for 6 months and usually the patient can lose around 30% of their excess weight.  Of course through weight loss the patient will have health benefits that they would not have if they stay obese.

The Orbera and Spatz gastric balloons are the devices that are placed through an endoscopic procedure and typically allow the patient a speedy recovery and no actual surgery on the stomach itself.  The most popular of the gastric balloons to date is the Orbera device and in one study the patients actually lost an average of almost 22 pounds within the study period of 6 months and the patients on average were able to keep off about 19 pounds in the six month period studied after the doctors removed the device.

There is a new gastric balloon that has now started to become popular which is called the Elipse Balloon.  This device is not yet available in the United States but it may become the future of weight loss procedures.  The Elipse balloon is made by Allurion and it is a gastric balloon that does not require an endoscopy procedure, as such the company trademarked the slogan, Elipse Balloon a procedureless gastric balloon.  With the Elipse balloon the patient will as well feel full and eat less.  Here the balloon is delivered inside of a pill capsule that is swallowed by the patient and then after about 6 months it will pass through the patient’s intestinal tract and out into the toilet.  As such the patient having the Elipse Balloon placed requires no surgery, no anesthesia and no endoscopy.

With the Elipse Balloon a small string is attached to the pill that the patient swallows and the balloon is inflated by a doctor once the pill reaches the stomach.  The string is then removed easily after the device is inflated and at a specific time the balloon will automatically disinflate and then the patient will pass the uninflated balloon when they go to the bathroom. 

In Mexico you may actually have your choice of gastric balloon devices, and though most patients opt for the Orbera gastric balloon, the newer Elipse Balloon is now becoming a popular option among patients looking to have weight loss procedures done in Mexico.

Are these devices safe for the general public?

The FDA in the United States says that to qualify for these gastric balloon procedures that patient should have a BMI or body mass index of between 30 and 40 and have been unsuccessful with typical weight loss methods of diet and exercise.  If a patient is clinically obese, then the gastric balloon device is considered a safe option for weight loss by the FDA, but the devices themselves and this treatment do have risks as do most medical procedures.  In one study of the Orbera gastric balloon, about 10 percent of the patients had an adverse event with their device.  In this study there were 160 patients, so about 16 had to have their gastric balloons removed.

Are Gastric Balloons the future for weight loss?

In Puerto Vallarta Mexico, Dr. Juan Hidalgo has been placing gastric balloons for the last 6 years at his Bariatric practice, Weight Loss Team.  Dr. Hidalgo has found that many patients struggle with the discomfort of the newly placed device.  Dr. Hidalgo as well has found that about 10 percent of the patients have their gastric balloons removed prior to the end of the six month period duration.  Dr. Hidalgo feels that these gastric balloons ultimately will not be a solution for obese and overweight patients because the problem with the gastric balloon is that even though the patient feels full quicker, the stomach itself remains intact and will expand as the patient eats more and more.  He claims that the success stated above in the study only comes from the fact that the patients led a healthy lifestyle and were monitored for these studies, but in real life when you are dealing with the illness of obesity, the typical average overweight and obese patient usually does not have the control to stop eating, otherwise they would be thin.  This is seen with all the patients who have done diets in the past, lose some weight and then gain it back as soon as the diet ends. The illness of obesity is what will ultimately prevent the gastric balloons from being a viable option for weight loss in the future.  Most of the patients who need to have real weight loss, say 60 pounds or more, truly need to have an actual surgery to reduce the size of the stomach, be it a gastric sleeve or a gastric bypass surgery.  The price of the gastric balloon in Mexico is actually the same price as the gastric sleeve surgery.  Dr. Hidalgo in Puerto Vallarta performs the gastric sleeve or the gastric balloon for $4200usd., and he feels that the patient will have much better long term success for their money with the actual gastric sleeve surgery.

Unfortunately, the gastric balloon though liked by most patients because surgery is not required most likely will not be the future for weight loss.  There are just too many factors at play that make the actual surgery on the stomach a better option for long term weight loss results.

Foto by: Instituto de Obesidad

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