AURORA, Colo — As the New Year approaches, many of us are making resolutions to lose weight, so what if you would just swallow a capsule and lose twice as much weight as with diet and exercise alone?
It sounds too good to be true, but doctors at the University of Colorado Hospital will soon offer the Obalon Balloon System in January after it received FDA approval in September.
“We will be one of the first sites in the United States to be placing these devices,” said Dr. Shelby Sullivan, a Gastroenterologist at University of Colorado Hospital and Director of the Center for Endoscopic Bariatric Therapy. “These devices are really just a tool to help you lose weight. You still have to make all of the other changes; the balloons just make it much easier for you to make those changes.”
Sullivan was the lead physician in the U.S. clinical trials of the new balloon system, which involves swallowing a capsule that contains an inflatable balloon attached to a catheter. Patients swallow three capsules, each three weeks apart.
The idea is that the balloons make the patients feel fuller longer. After six months, the balloons are removed.
Unlike balloon systems already on the market, the patient does not have to be sedated for placement of the balloon, only for removal. They also have had fewer side effects, such as nausea and vomiting.
There is a slight risk of ulceration and heartburn, Sullivan said.
“I had always struggled with weight my whole life,” said Lisa Whealon, a St. Louis mother who was part of the clinical trial last year. “It kind of forces you to get in the right mindset and learn those healthy habits.”
Whealon said she lost 90 pounds with the help of the balloons and kept losing weight after they were removed.
“I see the benefit of losing the weight. I’m able to keep up with my kids and sometimes I’m able to outrun them, which is kind of a fantastic feeling,” she said. “That’s definitely a huge motivator for me in keeping it off.”
Sullivan said patients with the balloons lost twice as much weight as those without them, and about 90 percent kept the weight off for at least six months after the balloons were removed.
The devices are considered a less invasive option for people who don’t want gastric surgery or who don’t weigh quite enough.
Obalon is approved for people with a BMI of 30 to 40 (about 30 pounds or more to lose), while bariatric surgery is usually recommended for people with BMIs for 40 and up, or 35 and up with weight-related health problems.
Unlike bariatric surgery, though, balloon systems are not covered by insurance and cost approximately $7,000 to $8,000, including the year-long weight-loss program.
For more information on the University of Colorado’s non-surgical weight-loss options, click here.