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Saline-Filled Gastric Balloon Aids Weight Loss

Another advantage of the gastric balloon is that no hospital stay is required, says Elia's colleague, Gregorio Feldman, MD.

"You can usually go home three hours after the balloon is inserted and inflated," he tells WebMD. "And it can also be reinflated in place if necessary.”

Elia and Feldman studied 84 patients using a saline-filled balloon. The balloons deflated spontaneously in two patients. Another patient, who Elia says hid chronic alcoholism from the researchers, suffered a gastric laceration.

In the remaining 81 patients, the average weight dropped from 220 pounds at the start of the study to an average of 200 pounds when the balloons were removed five to seven months later. Their mean BMI dropped from 36 to 32.6.

Overall, patients lost an average of 9.18% of their initial weight.

Fourteen "pre-obese" patients with BMIs of between 27.6 and 30 at the start of the study lost an average of 7.6% of their body weight. In the U.S., people with BMIs of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight and people with BMIs of 30 or greater are obese.

The 17 patients with starting BMIs of 40 or more lost 12.2% of body weight, Elia says.

About 10% of patients failed to follow dietary and exercise recommendations and therefore did not do very well, Feldman says.

"It's a multidisciplinary approach. The balloon can’t do it all," he says.

Air-Filled Gastric Balloon Aids Weight Loss

The second study involved 19 patients with an average BMI of 39.75. Their balloons were filled with air rather than saline.

At six months, their BMI had dropped an average of 4.9 points and they had lost an average of 29 pounds, reports Kyoshi Hashiba, MD, of Sirio Libanês Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil.

One patient suffered a rare complication in which the stomach twists more than 180 degrees, but there were no cases of bleeding or cutting.

Thompson says that if you overeat with a gastric balloon, you may feel extremely nauseated or vomit. In the study, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain were successfully treated with oral medications.

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