Temporary gastric balloon an effective method of weight loss, study finds

A gastric device called an Elipse balloon that can be swallowed and then filled with water while in the stomach can help obese people to lose large amounts of weight, a new study presented at the European Congress on Obesity has shown.

Currently, bariatric surgery to reduce the size of the stomach is highly effective, but there are a number of challenges: including the risky application of anaesthesia; a long period of preparation to ready patients physically and psychologically for the surgery; cost; and a long waiting list in the UK.

The balloon is swallowed like a pill with a catheter attached, which allows the balloon to be filled with water once an ultrasound has determined the balloon is in place in the stomach. The catheter can then be detached and is pulled back up the throat and out.

Unlike gastric surgery, the balloon is a temporary measure. After 16 weeks, it bursts in the stomach, the water is released and the balloon itself is excreted.

The study showed that the 38 patients enrolled in the trial had lost a mean 15.2kg (33.5 lbs) by the end of the 16 weeks, which amounted to about 31 per cent of their excess weight.

Dr Roberta Ienca from the Sapienza University of Rome in Italy, who presented the study, said: “Because the Elipse Balloon does not require endoscopy, surgery or anaesthesia, this may make it suitable for a larger population of obese patients not responding to diet/lifestyle treatment and also for use by a variety of clinicians — nutritionists, dietitians, and internists — who currently do not have access to or are qualified to fit endoscopic or surgical weight loss devices.”

Professor Jason Halford of the European Association for the Study of Obesity commented: “The technology in and of itself is interesting but you have really got to deal with people’s eating behaviour before you intervene."

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