In August of 2015 the FDA approved 2 intra-gastric balloons for use in the the United States; The Orbera Managed Weight Loss System and the ReShape Duo. Both of these balloons have been used outside the United States for nearly 20 years and have an excellent safety profile. Dr. Trace Curry was one of the first surgeons in the country to receive training on the Orbera intra-gastric balloon.
Both of these balloons have been used outside the United States for nearly 20 years and have an excellent safety profile.
What is an intra-gastric balloon?
It’s a soft balloon made of silicone that can be inserted into the stomach without surgery. After insertion the balloon is filled with saline, roughly to the size of a small grapefruit.
This video shows the basic concept of insertion and removal. Insertion of the device involves sedating the patient, then placing the balloon via endoscopy (no incisions) and takes about 30 minutes. Removal of the balloon is a similar process.
How much work will I have to miss?
Most patients can return to work the day after insertion or removal.
How does an intra-gastric balloon help me lose weight?
The newly-inserted balloon takes up space in your stomach which helps reduce hunger and make you full earlier.
How long does it stay in?
Both Orbera and ReShape are approved for 6 months, at which point they must be removed.
What happens if I don’t get it taken out?
This could lead to rupture of the balloon requiring emergency surgery to remove it from the intestines, where it could cause a blockage.
How much weight can I expect to lose?
Most studies show around 40% excess body weight loss at 6 months. Considering the fact that these were low-BMI patients, this would equate to around 25-35 lbs. Some patients will lose more, some less as the results depend on how much work the patient puts into it.
What are the risks?
Although intra-gastric balloons have been proven to have a very good safety profile, there are some potential complications. Rupture of the balloon would be the most significant, which would require immediate removal. Some patients do not tolerate the device and have uncontrollable nausea and vomiting, which could also lead to the need for early removal. Rare complications such as perforation of the stomach or esophagus could occur, as well as aspiration of gastric contents into the lungs upon removal.
Will I regain my weight after it is removed?
Weight regain after removal is a risk after intra-gastric balloon. Our program is designed to keep the patient engaged in ongoing weight loss after the balloon is removed. The total program length is 6 months, as the balloon must be removed at that point. The use of medications such as Belviq, Qsymia, or Contrave can help with long-term maintenance and our team has extensive experience with these new weight loss drugs.
Will insurance cover an intra-gastric balloon?
At this time there is no coverage from any insurance company for intra-gastric balloons. Financing is available through multiple avenues, and health savings accounts can also be used.
I have already had bariatric surgery, can I get a balloon to help me lose weight?
No. Intra-gastric balloons cannot be used in patients who have had any previous gastric surgery. The only exception would be a patient who had a gastric band but has had it removed.
My BMI is over 40, can I still get a gastric balloon?
In general, lower-BMI patients are better candidates for balloons and the FDA has only approved it for use in patients with a BMI or 30-40. The device can be used “off-label” in some cases for patients with a BMI over 40. You can calculate your BMI here.