New balloon device may aid weight loss

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KANSAS CITY, MO — The Food and Drug Administration approved a new weight loss tool this week. It's a device with two balloons that's placed in the stomach.

The procedure begins the patient being sedated. The device, called ReShape, goes down the throat and into the stomach. It has two silicone balloons with a flexible shaft. The balloons are inflated with saline to take up room in the stomach and help the patient feel full.

After six months, the device is deflated and removed.

Dr. Sreeni Jonnalagadda of Saint Luke's Hospital was chair of the committee that monitored safety during the clinical trial. He says weight loss with it is "modest."

"So if somebody was 60 pounds overweight above their target, this trial would suggest they would lose 15 pounds in weight," said Dr. Jonnalagadda.

That's not nearly as much as is common with weight loss surgeries. But the doctor says the device may be a good option for people with a body mass index of 30 to 35 who don't weigh enough to qualify for surgeries. He adds that it may be a good option if patients are committed to continuing with diet, exercise and counseling after the device is removed. Close to half of patients regained some weight in the six months after.

"You would need to follow with a dietitian for a period of about a year -- typically at least meeting them once a month," Dr. Jonnalagadda said.

As for safety, the doctor says a stomach ulcer was found in about one in ten patients when the device was removed, although many of those patients had no symptoms of that ulcer.

"One would expect once those balloons come out, those ulcers heal pretty promptly," he said.

Dr. Jonnalagadda intends to start offering the ReShape procedure at Saint Luke's. He's also testing some similar procedures. There's no word yet on how much ReShape will cost.

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