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Gastric Balloons May Aid Weight Loss

Balloon Approach Helps Pre-obese and Obese Patients Shed Pounds in 2 Studies

Saline-Filled Gastric Balloon Aids Weight Loss continued...

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.

Balloons deflated in two patients during the second month, but they were replaced without any problems.

Currently, the balloons are only left in place for six months. At that point, it is hoped that the patients can continue to lose or maintain their weight with diet and exercise alone. But some may need another procedure.

Hashiba tells WebMD that the air-filled balloon may be easier than the saline-filled balloon for some patients to tolerate because it weighs less, but there are no studies comparing the two.

The treatment is not recommended for morbidly obese patients because of complications with imaging, he says. It's recommended that patients get monthly X-rays to ensure the balloon hasn't deflated.

Both the air-filled and the saline-filled balloons cost about $4,000 to $5,000 for the full procedures, Feldman says.

Lap-Band surgery and related expenses range from $15,000 to $25,000 in the United States, but weight loss is much greater -- about 50% of excess weight, on average, within the first year, according to a Lap-Band web site.

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