Healthier Weight
0800 313 4618
Call Mon-Fri 9-8, Sat-Sun 10-4

Obalon gastric balloon

Obalon gastric balloon

I’m always keen on new and innovative treatments that will help people to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. The caveat is that whatever the treatment or device might be, it has to be safe and there must be good scientific evidence to support it.

Intra-gastric balloons have been around for decades and they have a part to play in patient care for those who are either not eligible for surgery or who would prefer a non-surgical option. We regularly implant gastric balloons, though we always make it clear to patients that the balloon is a temporary weight loss device and that – once the balloon is removed (usually after 6 months) - there will be a strong tendency to regain any lost weight. For some patients the balloon proves to be an effective “kick-start” and they do well, though for others it proves to be less effective.

The Obalon is a new type of balloon that differs in a number of ways from conventional balloons. The balloon itself is very small and is rolled up inside a capsule small enough to be swallowed. Once the capsule has been swallowed, the connecting tube is attached to a cylinder and the balloon is inflated with 200cc of nitrogen. An x-ray is then performed to ensure the balloon is in the correct position within the stomach. Depending on the weight loss, up to 3 balloons can be implanted over the next few weeks, though they all have to be removed at week 12-weeks and an x-ray has to be performed after each implant. The balloons are removed by means of an endoscopic procedure carried out by a surgeon or a gastroenterologist requiring sedation, though not a general anesthetic.

In clinical trials the average weight loss over 12-weeks was 1st 3lbs, ie around 1¼ lbs per week*.  A couple of observations are relevant here:

  • Note that unlike a conventional balloon where an endoscopy is first carried out to inspect the inside of the stomach, the Obalon balloon is a “blind” implant.  Whilst this may be attractive because it means avoiding an endoscopy, many doctors (including myself) would be very concerned about putting anything into the stomach without first having a look. There are common conditions such as gastric ulceration and a large hiatus hernia, which could be hazardous if a balloon is implanted.


  • Whilst the Obalon avoids the first endoscopy, an endoscopic procedure is still required to remove the balloons.

 

  • Unlike conventional balloon patients, Obalon patients are exposed to x-rays each time an implant is carried out.

 

  • Weight loss with the Obalon is less than with conventional balloons (see table) , because the Obalon balloons are only in place for 12-weeks whereas the conventional balloons stay in for 6-months.

 

  • Although most of the weight loss with a conventional balloon occurs in the first 4-months, the additional 2-months is desirable because it helps to maintain weight loss for another 2-months.  With Obalon the device is out at 12-weeks so there is much less time for the patient to habituate to a new lifestyle.

 

  • Note also that weight loss with the Obalon device is no greater than that which can be achieved with a standard low-calorie diet!

 

For all these reasons, we do not recommend the Obalon gastric balloon. We don’t feel it offers anything more over existing balloons (Orbera™) and there is a greater body of evidence to support the use of conventional balloons compared with Obalon.

 

The key differences between conventional balloons and the Obalon are shown below:


Obalon

Conventional balloons
(Orbera™)

Endoscopy performed before implantation

No

Yes

Endoscopy required for removal

Yes

Yes

X-rays to check balloon

Yes

No

Length of implant

12-weeks

6 months

Average weight loss over implant

8kg

17.8kg

Average reduction in BMI kg/m2

2.8*

4-9*

Scientific evidence

 Very limited safety and efficacy data

Large body of evidence
and safety data



Dr David Ashton MD PhD
29th January 2014

ico-bkarrw.png

Lost Legacy

Hand on mouse laptop

On the eve of the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society Annual Meeting, our nation has never been fatter.

ico-fdarrw.png

Losing weight keeps you feeling young

Women of all ages

Recent evidence suggests that those who lose weight through surgery may actually...

In partnership with
Registered with the Care Quality Commission and General Medical Council
*Weight loss surgery results and benefits vary and are different for each individual. As such, Healthier Weight cannot guarantee specific weight loss goals.