Intragastric balloon system for weight loss

Obesity has become a true pandemic over the past few years with detrimental complications that have led to great strain in the healthcare systems worldwide.  Obesity is directly linked to increased cardiovascular, metabolic and bone disease. It is also associated with increased cancer risk as well as numerous gastrointestinal diseases including fatty liver disease. To help reduce the burden of obesity, a number of clinics and hospitals around the globe offer personalized weight loss programs to help obese patients finally begin their journey towards a healthy and active life.

Intragastric balloon system works by placing an inflatable medical device into the stomach to limit food consumption and make a person feel fuller faster. It is one of these programs who are available for moderately overweight patients who do not want to undergo surgical procedure for weight loss. It is also very useful to enhance the efficacy of diet and exercise program. As a matter of fact, the addition of intragastric balloon therapy to diet and exercise programs increased the weight loss by four folds.

Before proceeding, your doctor will conduct thorough medical assessment and background check to make sure that you qualify for the treatment. Individuals are eligible for intragastric balloon if they have a body mass index (BMI) of 27-40 with or without comorbidities or a BMI of over 40 but not interested in surgery. For the latter, patients must consent with the off-label application of a device to be used in the procedure. Moreover, intragastric balloon is recommended for those who failed to shed extra pounds through diet and exercise; are willing to participate in a supervised diet and behavior modification program and have no contraindication to upper endoscopy or intragastric balloon insertion.

The contraindications to Intragasric Balloon System include previous weight loss surgery; any inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract; potential upper gastrointestinal bleeding or other congenital anomalies; large hiatal hernia (more than 5 cm) or structural abnormality in the larynx or esophagus; any condition that would hinder endoscopy; drug or alcohol addiction; pregnancy or breastfeeding; past or present psychological disorders; and regular use of blood thinners.

When opting to undergo this procedure, expect to be asked about your medical history, weight loss goals, and previous weight loss methods. Your doctor will also ask about your comfort level with the intragastric balloon procedure and your commitment to a supervised weight loss program. For Obalon Balloon, the first and only swallowable, Food and Drug Administration-approved three-balloon system, a test capsule will be provided to the patient in the clinic. All these are normally covered during your first consultation with your specialist. Afterwards, you will be required to fill out and sign the consent form.

Prior to the intragastric balloon procedure, your doctor will prescribe a stomach acid control medication to be taken once a day two weeks prior to the procedure.  This medication should be continued until your balloon is removed. The patient is then given an appointment for the balloon insertion. The procedure can be completed without sedation and the patient will be able to go home after about 15 minutes. In addition, you will be given prescriptions for anti-emetic, anti-spasmodic, and acid control medications.

Almost all patients experience some gastric discomfort, nausea, and vomiting for the first week after the placement of the intragastric balloon as the digestive system is adjusting to the presence of the balloon. Nausea and vomiting is to be expected, especially in the first week after the surgery.  You will be provided with medications to provide relief.

Your dietician will discuss with you a diet plan immediately after the surgery. You will be advised to take clear liquids for the first three days -- avoiding carbonated beverages; sugary drinks such as sweet teas; citrus juices (orange, grapefruit, pineapple) and tomato juices; and juice drinks such as Hawaiian punch. During this period, you may also consume 100 percent fruit juice such as apple, grape, and cranberry; clear broth; sugar-free popsicles and gelatin; water and/or ice chips; crystal light or sugar-free Kool-Aid; and decaf teas and coffee.

For days 4 to 7, you may take protein shakes; yogurt; unsweetened skim milk, almond milk, and soy milk; scrambled eggs; sugar-free pudding; cream soup; and fast track supplements. You should stay away from foods with chunks or large pieces; ice cream, regular pudding, cream pies, and other sugar desserts; and carbonated beverages during this period.

After seven days, you can transition to semi-solid foods before gradually transition to solid foods. The length of time for this transition depends on how your body is adjusting to the process. Be sure your body is comfortable before you move into the next phase of eating.

As soon as you feel well enough - usually about 2 weeks - you may start an exercise program.  Aim for 10,000 steps per day and keep track of your activities using mobile apps such as FitBit. You will also need to meet regularly with your dietician to receive nutritional training and monitor your progress.

The removal of the balloon, meanwhile, is done during upper endoscopy. This procedure is conducted under light sedation in the endoscopy unit. The next 6 months will be an important part of your successful journey. For patients following the program, the goal weight loss during this period is 30-50 pounds.  However, weight loss is not guaranteed with this procedure given that there are some patients who do not follow the program, hence, do not lose weight at all. In other words, like any other weight management program, commitment is everything. Commit to the program and you will surely love the result.