Intragastric Balloon Can Aid in Achieving a Healthy Weight

By Joseph Chebli, M.D.

She has struggled with her body weight for much of her life, trying to shed 20 pounds that slow her down and make her self-conscious. She's also concerned about her family's history of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. After trying every diet program on the market, including medication, she's frustrated and depressed.

That's usually when our team at ShorePoint Health Venice meets someone in this situation to consult on other options for weight loss and long-term weight management.

For patients who are much heavier, or “morbidly obese,” a number of surgical alternatives can help a patient lose weight and even resolve diabetes associated with obesity. For patients such as our fictional case - men or women who are 20 to 30 pounds overweight - an option to consider is called an intragastric balloon.

The balloon is a soft, stretchable device that is temporarily inserted inside the stomach in a procedure called an endoscopy, which does not require any incisions. The balloon takes up space in the stomach, which makes a person feel satisfied with less food.

The procedure takes about 20 minutes under anesthesia and the patient generally goes home the same day. It is one of the safest medical procedures, and thousands have been performed worldwide.

Here's how it works: First, we perform a diagnostic endoscopy that allows us to visually inspect the esophagus and stomach to ensure it is safe to perform the procedure. Once the patient is mildly sedated, we insert the deflated intragastric balloon into the stomach using the endoscope.

Then, we use a syringe to fill the deflated balloon with a sterile saline solution. For most patients, the inflated balloon will be about the size of a grapefruit. The balloon can remain in place for up to six months.

Our team performs the procedure at Venice Regional, which is accredited by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program.

After inserting the balloon, our team continues to monitor the body's reaction to the device. We instruct the patient on how to gradually initiate a healthy dietary regimen designed by a dietitian. Patients start with liquids and then transition to solids.

We also work with the patient to design an exercise program to ensure the patient's success. Patients who adhere to the program lose an average of 22 to 33 pounds. Within six months, we use a simple endoscopic procedure to withdraw the balloon.

The behavioral changes and nutritional recommendations we advise can help patients maintain a healthy weight after the device is removed. Maintaining a healthy weight brings other benefits, too. It can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which contributes to heart health, and help prevent the onset of diabetes associated with obesity.

For many patients, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight also contributes to emotional well-being and self-confidence.

The intragastric balloon is inserted inside the stomach through an endoscopic procedure that requires no incisions. The balloon takes up space in the stomach, making the patient feel satisfied with less food.

For more information about the intragastric balloon and other approaches to achieving a healthy weight, please call 941-483-7579.

Dr. Joseph Chebli, M.D., is a Center of Excellence metabolic and bariatric surgeon at Venice Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. He has performed thousands of life-changing metabolic and bariatric procedures and advocates for patients as chair-elect of the Florida Governor's Diabetes Advisory Council.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Weight

You've had weight-loss surgery, and you've achieved a healthy weight. Now what? For people who have struggled with unhealthy weight for much of their lives, a procedure like the gastric balloon provides a new starting point. It's not an end to the challenge. Following are some tips for life after weight-loss surgery.

  1. Avoid drinking beverages with meals. Liquids can wash food through the stomach, flushing the nutritional benefit of your food too quickly.
  2. Chew 20 to 40 times per bite. You'll improve the nutritional uptake of the food you eat and achieve a sense of fullness sooner, causing you to eat less.
  3. Avoid distractions - watching TV, reading, texting - that can keep you from chewing properly.
  4. Exercise five days a week for 30 minutes at a time, doing an activity you enjoy. Walking, swimming, bike riding, paddle-boarding, rollerblading - the sky's the limit!
  5. Engage in social activities that are not centered around food. Catch up with a friend during a walk on the beach or over a cup of tea.
  6. Develop a support network of friends or family who will help you keep on track.
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