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New FDA approved Obalon Gastric Balloon System for Weight Loss

Weight loss treatment is ever changing with new treatments being available. Gastric Balloons and in particular the Obalon system become another tool to our avail with great promise for patients who have difficulty losing 20-50 lbs. with just conventional diets and exercise.

Weight loss surgery was typically meant for patients with about 100 lbs of excess weight with a BMI over 35 with a obesity related major health problem. But what about patients who aren’t as heavy, or on their way to get unhealthy but do not have medical issues currently, or those who doesn’t want surgical treatment?

This is where the non – surgical treatment options can play a big role and the Obalon gastric balloon system is a good example of that. The balloon system is meant to be a jump start and not permanently alter anyone’s stomach. Of the available 3 gastric balloon systems 2 gastric balloons were approved earlier in 2016 (ORBERA™ and ReShape®), the Obalon system was approved recently by the FDA.

Obalon gastric balloon system comprises of FDA approved swallowable balloons that are inflated with Nitrogen with a tiny catheter once they are in the stomach. Once the balloon are inflated they are intended for you to eat less as they take up about 70% of the space in the stomach. 3 balloons total are placed within few weeks apart from each other. The balloons are designed to stay for 6 months and then they are removed by endoscopy under light sedation.

The Obalon system had been FDA approved for patients with a BMI of 30-40. All balloons have been shown to be twice as effective as conventional diets alone. When patient-randomized trials were performed, compared to people who didn’t have a balloon, the balloon group lost twice as much weight. No serious complications occurred and there were no fatalities with any of the balloons. The most common side effects were nausea and cramping which are uncommon with the Obalon Balloon.

I think it is important that the patient is engaged with the doctor’s office for a period of 12 months. The balloon system is meant to give a jump start to the weight loss and simultaneous lifestyle changes are very important because this will allow a patient to lose more weight when the balloon is in the first 6 months and hopefully continue to lose weight after the balloon is removed. This should include frequent office dietary visits and follow ups to improve a patient’s compliance. In order to help patients stay in track we use our app ‘Baritastic’ that helps patients log their diet and daily activities. Our dietitian can monitor the patients progress (a special service patient can sign up for separately at their choosing) on the app and communicate on weekly basis with recommendations and tips.

Gastric Balloons are an exciting development in the weight loss surgery chest of tools because we can help so many more people that don’t need or don’t want surgery but aren’t successful with diets and exercise alone.

Dr. Sashi Ganta