The skinny on balloon therapy for weight loss

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - If you are trying to lose weight before the holidays, it’s probably too late. But if you are looking to lose weight despite the holidays, help has arrived.

It’s called ‘balloon therapy.’

“You feel full sooner because you actually have the balloon sitting in there, taking up space,” said Dr. Shelby Sullivan, director of bariatric endoscopy at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital.

The FDA approved two balloon therapy products this summer. One is called Orbera. It is a less expensive method using one balloon. The other is called ReShape, which uses two balloons in case one deflates.

Both versions are made of silicone and filled with saline; both are placed in the stomach through an endoscopic tube down the patient's throat.

The procedure usually takes less than 10 minutes, and requires only minor sedation. However, the balloons must be removed after six months or they may start to leak.

The results of balloon therapy are often two to three times better than dieting and exercise alone.

“We are really trying to aim for a 15 to 20 percent total body weight loss,” said Dr. Sullivan.

Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital in Creve Coeur says it is the only local hospital offering both types of balloon therapy.

To increase long-term success, patients are enrolled in the hospital's Lifestyle Therapy program for one year.

“Twenty-five percent of patients had their lowest weight recorded six months after the balloon was removed, so it is really possible to maintain that weight loss, but you have to keep coming to those lifestyle therapy sessions,” she said.

Using balloon therapy to lose weight is not covered by insurance. Typically, it costs between $7,000 to $8,000. Balloon Therapy is for adults only and works best for patients trying to lose between 30 to 100 pounds.

“This is a game-changer, because this really does open up the ability to treat a lot more people,” Dr. Sullivan said.

Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital offers monthly patient information sessions about balloon therapy.

For more information call 314-542-9318 or toll free at 844-542-9378.