People have been trying different ways to lose weight for centuries, but many of these have been unsuccessful or even dangerous. With today’s worldwide epidemic, obesity has become the United States’ second most frequent preventable cause of death after smoking.
Many patients do not qualify for bariatric surgery, or it is not a viable option for them due to health or circumstantial reasons.
One patient who was interviewed about her reasons for declining bariatric surgery said that as a single mother, she had neither the childcare resources nor the time off of her job to consider it as an alternative. If she did not work, she did not get paid, so she was in a lose-lose situation. I am sure many of you can relate to her predicament.
Her obesity was affecting her health, and she was at risk for type 2 diabetes and desperately wanted to lose weight. She had tried dieting and exercise, among other options, but nothing had been effective.
Suppose an alternative solution was available that did not require surgery or permanent alterations of any kind to the digestive system. Additionally, this alternative would in most cases require only a three- to five-day absence from work. This is not a futuristic work of fiction but a real medical weight loss device that is available today called a weight loss balloon.
Today, we are going to talk about what types of gastric balloons for weight loss are available now, what we hope the future holds for balloons used for weight loss, and why we offer the Orbera balloon to our patients.
Where Did Stomach Balloons For Weight Loss Come From?
The first mention of the idea of using balloons for weight loss was in 1985, when a husband and wife team who were both gastroenterologists came up with the idea and used themselves as testing subjects. Their balloon was shaped like a toilet paper roll and was inflated with air, leaving a hollow core. It was inserted and removed endoscopically and left inside the patient’s stomach for four months. It was granted FDA approval for use in the United States in 1985 but was withdrawn from the market in 1992 due to poor weight loss results and complications.
Then in 1987, a group of international experts got together for a comprehensive workshop in Tarpon Springs, Florida to define the factors that would describe the ideal weight loss balloon. This meeting has since been dubbed “The Tarpon Springs Conference” and is mentioned in many research papers and reports that are associated with intragastric balloons.
During this meeting, these experts outlined the “ideal weight loss balloon” to meet these criteria as outlined below.
Criteria of an Ideal Weight Loss Balloon
- The balloon should be manufactured from high-quality silicone so it can withstand normal digestive juices and different food textures;
- It should be filled with liquid;
- The shape should be spherical, and it should be completely smooth with no protrusions that can create ulcers or obstructions;
- It should have the capacity to hold between 400 and 500 cc, depending on the patient’s anatomy;
- It must have a radiopaque marker.
Orbera Balloon: The Trusted Benchmark
It was further stated that the intention of these stomach balloons for weight loss was to fill a gap for patients who desired to lose weight or gain relief from a weight-related illness but did not qualify for surgery due to a lower-than-required BMI. Additionally, it could be used for patients with very high BMI numbers for whom surgery would be too risky.
In 1991, a balloon was designed and manufactured according to the Tarpon Springs guidelines that contained a saline-methylene blue mixture. Methylene blue is a salt that is also known as methylthioninium chloride and is used for making medications, antidotes, and contrast dyes. The blue was added to the solution inside the balloon to help detect any potential leaks.
The balloon was designed to remain in the stomach for only 6 months and then be taken out. It was used in Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East, but did not get approved for use at that time in the United States or Canada. The United States approved this balloon in 2015 after some slight changes were made to the design, and it became known as the Orbera balloon.
There have been several attempts at designing other weight loss balloons, and all of them have been based on Orbera’s style and design. This is primarily attributed to the long history of usage in multiple countries, the proven results, and the safety profile of the Orbera balloon.
Currently, there are only three gastric balloons for weight loss approved by the FDA: Orbera (2015), Obalon (2016), and Spatz3 (2021).
Weight Loss Balloons Are Excellent Options To Treat Obesity
To say that losing weight is very difficult is to state the obvious, and many have tried and failed. According to the experts at John Hopkins University, about 114 million American adults would benefit from a weight loss program, but only 16 million of them would meet the qualifications for bariatric surgery. A gastric balloon for weight loss would be an excellent option to fill this gap.
Many individuals who lose weight end up gaining most or all of it back. The main reason this happens is because, unfortunately, many of them only change their lifestyle habits temporarily while they are “dieting” and then revert back to their former habits when they decide the diet is over. The only way to maintain a healthy weight is through consistent healthy lifestyle choices that continue long-term (like, forever).
Using a gastric balloon for weight loss is beneficial because it offers patients the opportunity to become knowledgeable about nutrition and the importance of eating a well-balanced, healthy diet. Patients receive twelve months of comprehensive support that helps them to retrain their brains and learn to trade unhealthy behaviors for healthy lifestyle choices that will promote sustainable weight loss. Patients learn not only why making these healthier choices is critical to their health, but they also learn real-life strategies that will help them take what they have learned and successfully apply it. This is the critical connection that is missing from many diets or weight loss programs and is key to preventing weight regain.
Stomach balloons are also great options to help overweight and obese individuals lose weight because they are only temporary devices. They remain in the stomach for only six months and are then removed.
Weight loss surgery is drastic and often makes permanent changes to the individual’s digestive system. If any adverse situation arises during their gastric balloon program, the balloon can easily be removed during a quick office visit.
Will Non-surgical Procedures And Weight Loss Balloons Become The Most Preferred Methods For Weight Loss?
Non-surgical weight loss options like the Orbera balloon will most likely become the most performed procedures in the future for many reasons.
- They open up opportunities and fill the huge gap for the 98 million patients who need to lower their BMI number but do not qualify for bariatric surgery;
- Compared to bariatric surgery, non-surgical weight loss balloons offer a much lower risk for complications;
- There are also no side effects resulting from the use of general anesthesia because installing the weight loss balloon only requires a mild sedative and takes about 20 minutes;
- There is only a short recovery period needed after the balloon is placed in the patient’s stomach, and most recover in under a week.
Weight-loss balloons are great tools that can help patients lose a significant amount of weight. Like any other tool, it cannot work alone, and human participation is necessary for it to work properly and be effective. Patients must be committed to their weight loss program and dedicated to changing their diet and lifestyle over the long term.
Can I Use My Health Insurance To Help Offset The Costs Of A Gastric Balloon Program?
Unfortunately, at this time, gastric balloons are not covered by health insurance plans. They are still considered to be used for aesthetic weight loss purposes, although they have proven effective in reducing obesity-related conditions such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Many weight loss experts are hopeful that as more research results are reported, balloons for weight loss will be taken seriously by health insurance companies as viable options that are safe, more cost-effective, and deliver significant, sustainable weight loss.
Where Can I Get A Weight Loss Balloon?
If you are interested in a weight-loss balloon program, you are in luck! Whether you are local to Miami, FL, or are out of town, we can help you lose weight through the comprehensive Orbera weight loss program we offer here at Simmons MD Advanced Weight Loss Solutions. The Orbera balloon was the original and only weight loss balloon that met all the requirements outlined during the Tarpon Springs Conference. It has a long history of safety and efficacy spanning two decades and multiple countries.
Get in touch with us today to find out more about the Orbera weight loss balloon program and see if it might be right for you. During your consultation, we will discuss your options for non-surgical weight loss and answer any questions you may have. Making an investment in your health will mean a better quality of life in the future.