Those who are obese have a limited number of options for getting rid of all of their excess weight. For those that can't lose the weight through diet and exercise alone, a number of different types of weight-loss surgery are offered, including the gastric bypass, duodenal switch, gastric sleeve, lap band, or vBlock therapy procedures. However, these are all surgeries which are meant to be permanent. Not everyone wants to take that drastic of a step. Also, these surgeries typically require someone to have a BMI of at least 35, so not everyone who wants this type of procedure qualifies. A newer alternative that has just recently started becoming approved by the FDA is the weight loss balloon, which is a type of non-surgical weight loss.
How It Works
There are a few different types of weight loss balloon approved by the FDA. These include Obrera, which is a silicone balloon inserted through an endoscopy procedure, which means it's inserted through the throat so there's no need to have any stitches or cuts made. The balloon is then filled with saline and it stays in the stomach for six months, after which it needs to be removed. However, the process requires a one-year commitment, during which there is diet and exercise advice provided to help you alter your lifestyle to be more healthy and maintain any weight loss. The balloons take up space in the stomach, making it so that you eat less and can adjust to eating smaller portions and stopping when you're full. If you eat too much, it can cause nausea and vomiting.
Besides Obrera, there is a double balloon system called ReShape, which also involves the use of silicone-filled balloons inserted via endoscopy, and Obalon, which involves swallowing capsules containing a balloon tethered to a small catheter that is then used to inflate the balloon with a nitrogen mixed gas, making it so an endoscopy isn't necessary to insert the balloon. Two other balloons are also inserted, one after three weeks and another after either week nine or twelve, to help continue weight loss after you get used to the first balloon. An endoscopy is required to remove the balloons once six months has passed, as with other balloon systems. These are the three types approved by the FDA, although there are a couple other non-surgical weight loss balloons available in other countries, including once called Ellipse that involves swallowing a balloon that is then filled with distilled water. This balloon will deflate itself and be excreted from the body with no surgeries necessary.
Pros and Cons
The main benefits of these weight loss balloons is that they are a type of non-surgical weight loss that can help people lose more than three times as much as diet and exercise alone, they are available to people with a BMI of 30 or above, recovery only takes about a day and they have a relatively low complication rate compared to surgical options. The main considerations are that the weight loss balloons are temporary so people may eventually gain the weight back after the balloons are removed, people may need to take acid-reducing medications or those to limit nausea, insurance doesn't typically cover these procedures, and although rare, complications can be severe. Potential complications include the balloon deflating and blocking the digestive tract, ulcers, and injuries during the endoscopy procedure.