BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A specialized balloon is becoming a popular option for weight loss. The device is now available in Baton Rouge, and the non-surgical outpatient procedure takes less than 15 minutes.
"My blood pressure is down, cholesterol is down, have more energy," patient Tommy Mann told Dr. Kirk Mullins during a recent follow-up visit.
Mann feels like a new person and said his overall health has improved thanks to what's inside his stomach.
"While the balloon is in place we're really able to help build better eating habits and a healthier relationship with food," Dr. Mullins explained.
Popular in Europe for years, the Digestive Health Center is the latest clinic to offer the ORBERA gastric balloon in the Baton Rouge area. It's placed in the stomach endoscopically while the patient is under mild sedation. No incisions are necessary. The deflated balloon is slid into place and then filled with saline water. The balloon takes up space in the stomach, so patients feel full faster and eat less. It stays in place for six months and then removed through another endoscopic procedure.
While the balloon is inside the stomach the patient meets with a nurse and nutritionist once a month for guidance on what and how to eat. That program continues for another six months after the balloon is removed. Mullins said the nutrition counseling is just as important as the balloon itself.
Mann is down 50 pounds in three months. He experienced some nausea at the beginning, but has since adjusted with the help of medication. He now eats about one third of what he did before the balloon.
"It has really broken me of my habit of eating late at night and eating too much at night, and in hindsight I realize that was really my problem," he said.
The balloon is not an alternative to bariatric surgery like lap-band or gastric sleeve. It may work for those who need to drop fewer pounds more quickly. The balloon is recommended for patients with a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 40. Patients can lose up to 100 pounds, but during a clinical study the average patient lost 21.8 pounds or 10.2% of their body weight. How much weight a patient loses largely depends on how well they follow a diet and exercise plan while the balloon is in place and in the months following its removal.
"To be able to prevent hypertension, diabetes, to help with joint sustainability, to decrease cancer risk, you cannot put a price on that over a 30-year period," Mullins said.
The price tag for the procedure and 12 months of nutrition counseling is around $7,000. The balloon is not covered by insurance, but most clinics offer financing.