For years, patients seeking weight loss options have had several surgical alternatives at their disposal. Now, the University of Minnesota Health bariatric surgery team is offering an inflatable intragastric balloon system—a new, FDA-approved non-surgical option.
As part of the procedure, doctors use endoscopic techniques to insert a balloon system into a patient’s stomach. The balloons are inflated and occupy space in the stomach, reducing hunger and helping a patient eat smaller portions.
“It is safe, completely reversible and performed endoscopically with no surgical incisions,” said University of Minnesota Health Bariatric Surgeon Daniel Leslie, MD, who is the director of bariatric surgery. “It doesn’t alter stomach or intestinal anatomy.”
While the inflated balloon system is in the stomach, hunger signals are not sent to the brain because the space is already occupied. The balloon system is removed after six months.
Eligibility for the procedure is reserved for obese patients (with a Body Mass Index of 30 to 40) who have associated medical conditions, like heart disease or diabetes.
The same-day procedure doesn’t come with any lifting restrictions, Leslie said, and most patients return to work and regular activities within one week.
Patients who used one of the new intragastric balloon systems lost more than twice their excess weight compared to patients who worked with a doctor on a supervised diet and exercise program alone, according to research from the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, which was authorized by the FDA. Patients who had a body mass index (BMI) of about 35 lost about 25.1 percent of their excess weight compared to 11.3 percent for those who only used a diet and exercise program, according to the 326-patient study.
Leslie said the procedure does not address long-term adjustments to appetite, but is meant to kick start a new approach to life.
“The ultimate goal of our program in bariatric surgery is for patients to adjust to a healthier lifestyle prior to and after any procedure,” he said.
University of Minnesota Health care providers also use other strategies and regimens to help with excess weight loss. Patients who opt for the intragastric balloon also have access to those services.
“We offer medical and surgical weight management, including a pediatric clinic,” Leslie said. “Eating behavior, activity levels, medications and potentially surgical or endoscopic interventions are also offered.”