New Procedure Has People Swallowing Balloons To Lose Weight

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Do you have 10 or 20 pounds to lose that you can’t seem to shake?

There’s a new FDA-approved procedure that might help you do just that, and it involves swallowing balloons.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports, there have been previous balloon techniques for weight loss, but they required sedation and putting a scope into the stomach. This new version requires no surgery or anesthesia and no real down time.

It’s not meant for the morbidly obese, it’s meant for losing those really tough 15 pounds.

“I lose weight, I gain it back. I lose weight, I gain it back,” Suzie Soto, of the Bronx, says.

Like so many people, she has been on a weight loss seesaw for decades.

“I’ve tried pills, shakes, everything else and just nothing worked,” Soto says.

But in the last month, she’s dropped more than 15 pounds.

“It’s stupidly amazing,” Soto says.

What’s finally helped her to slim down?

“It’s actually the first swallowable balloon,” Dr. Anthony Starpoli says.

That’s right, Soto swallowed not one, not two, but three balloons as part of a brand new weight loss technique that’s seeing tremendous results.

“At one year, you’re looking at almost 7 percent total body weight loss,” Starpoli says.

CBS2 was there as Soto swallowed the last of the deflated balloons, which was attached to a small catheter.

As she swallowed a few times, the capsule containing the balloon made its way into the stomach. Then, Starpoli used a special device to fill the balloon with gas. After, he detached and pulled out the inflating tube. In the post-procedure X-ray, you can see all three of Soto’s balloons.

“It’s a combination of inducing a feeling of satiety, as well as eliminating otherwise room for more food,” Starpoli says.

The average weight loss in the clinical trial for the Obalon system was 15 pounds. Soto has already lost that with just two balloons. Many people lose 20 to 30 pounds will all three balloons.

After six months, another minor procedure deflates and removes all the balloons.

“It’s important to note that 89 percent of patients at one year maintained the weight loss,” Starpoli says.

“It’s all worth it!” Soto adds.

But maintaining that weight loss depends very much on a comprehensive program of nutrition and eating counseling, because you can out-eat any operation, Dr. Max reports.

In addition to weight loss, balloon patients reduced important health risks, including blood sugar and blood pressure.

The cost is about $9,000, which includes the nutrition counseling, but it’s general not covered by insurance.

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