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The gastric balloon, or weight loss balloon, is a fairly new treatment option. A major benefit of the gastric balloon is that it is a non-surgical procedure that allows people to benefit more from their hard work at eating well and exercising. Many people find they are able to lose weight with a balloon, even if they were not successful at losing weight previously. We are happy to offer several gastric balloon options at Athenix. Here are some questions our patients often ask us about the balloons.

What is a gastric balloon?

A gastric balloon is a flexible, balloon-shaped device that takes up room in your stomach. It’s intended for use as a weight loss tool. There are several gastric balloons available in the US, which are FDA approved. The two we’re asked about most often are Orbera and Obalon. The gastric balloons have been in use here for about 2 years, but have been in clinical trials for years before that, to ensure their safety and efficacy. We’ve found that our patients appreciate the gastric balloon option because it allows for significant weight loss without surgery.

How are the Obalon and Orbera balloons different?

Obalon and Orbera are two different types of gastric balloons. Orbera is a single balloon that is filled with a saline solution after it’s put into the stomach. Obalon, on the other hand, is a balloon “system”. The Obalon system is made up of 3 smaller balloons that are placed at separate appointments. The Obalon balloons are filled with gas instead of saline. Both types of balloons usually result in a substantial improvement in weight loss, when compared to diet and exercise alone.

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How do Obalon and Orbera get inserted?

Orbera and Obalon are placed in different types of procedures. The Orbera balloon requires a short office visit where you’ll be lightly sedated. Your doctor will use a thin tube that goes down your throat, to place the deflated Orbera balloon in your stomach. Once it’s in place, the thin tube will fill the balloon with a saline solution. Then the tube will be removed, and you’ll wake up and go home. This process generally takes about 20 minutes.

The Obalon balloons can be swallowed, so there is no need for sedation. You’ll be given a pill the size of a vitamin, and will be asked to swallow it with some water. The “pill” is the deflated Obalon balloon, and it’s attached to a very thin tube. This thin tube allows the doctor to inflate the balloon with gas once it’s in your stomach. Then the tube is removed and you go home. You’ll return in about a month for a second balloon, and after about 2 months for a third one. All the Obalon balloons are placed the same way.

What are the benefits of a gastric balloon?

Both Obalon and Orbera benefit patients trying to lose weight, because they allow you to feel full after eating just a small meal. Additionally, patients tend to feel full for longer. One benefit of the Obalon balloon system is that there is no sedation needed for placing the balloons. Patients also can have an easier adjustment period with Obalon, since small balloons are placed over 3 separate appointments. Benefits of Orbera include fewer trips to the doctor’s office since the one balloon is placed in a single visit. Additionally, patients lose somewhat more weight on average with Orbera – especially right after the balloon placement.


How long will the gastric balloon stay in my stomach?

Both Orbera and Obalon stay in your stomach for up to 6 months. With Obalon, this time period is measured from the day you get your first balloon placed – not your last balloon. Both types of gastric balloons are removed in a similar way. You’ll come to our office and will be lightly sedated. While you’re sleeping, we’ll place a thin tube down your throat, and deflate the balloon(s). We’ll then use that thin tube to remove the deflated balloons. At that point, we’ll wake you up and you’ll be ready to go home.

How much weight can I lose with Obalon and Orbera balloons?

Weight loss varies by person, but in one study patients with the Obalon balloon system lost about twice as much weight with the balloon, compared to just diet and exercise. A similar study was done with the Orbera balloon, and patients lost approximately 3 times as much weight, compared to diet and exercise alone. We’ve seen plenty of patients lose 30 pounds with a gastric balloon, but since weight loss is so personal – some lose more and some lose less. A primary factor in how much weight you lose is the lifestyle changes you make.


Are there any side effects of the Obalon and Orbera balloons?

Most patients feel some level of nausea and stomach discomfort when the balloon is first placed. This tends to be more pronounced with the Orbera balloon, likely because the balloon is larger than each Obalon balloon, and is filled with saline which is heavier than the gas that fills Obalon. Many balloon patients find that after the first week, their body adjusts and the side effects dissipate. Weight loss with Orbera tends to be more dramatic at first. With Obalon, you have one small balloon in place after your first appointment, so some patients don’t notice a big difference until the second balloon is placed. With Orbera, most patients feel a difference right away.

What will I have to do to be successful with a weight loss balloon?

To be successful with any gastric balloon, you’ll need to make lifestyle changes. Particularly, you’ll be eating smaller meals since the balloon takes up a good portion of your stomach. In addition to getting used to eating smaller portions, we’ll work with you on choosing foods that focus on lean protein and vegetables. There are no foods that are completely “off limits” with the balloon, so if you have a small piece of cake to celebrate a birthday, or eat pasta as a treat, you can find balance and still see consistent weight loss.

Am I a good candidate for Obalon or Orbera?

If you’ve been trying to lose weight for years, only to regain any pounds you lose, a weight loss balloon may be a good option for you. This is especially true if you do not want to have surgery, or do not qualify for bariatric surgery. Both Orbera and Obalon are FDA approved for adults with a BMI between 30 and 40. Good candidates are also willing to follow a diet and exercise program, that works in conjunction with your gastric balloon.

If you are wondering if a gastric balloon is a good way for you to lose weight, please contact us. We’re happy to speak with you.

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Practice Policy Update Regarding COVID-19 Your safety is our top priority.

To our valued patients,

I hope that you and your families have stayed healthy and well during this difficult time. We want to thank all of the essential workers that provided us with critical services during this period and also to all of you that remained at home preventing the further spread of the virus.

As we re-open our facilities our priority remains the safety and well being of our patients and staff. To that end, we have implemented a number of important safety measures at all of our facilities.

  1. All patients, staff, and caregivers will be screened via a questionnaire and temperature for Covid-19 symptoms at the front entrance.
  2. Only those individuals that pass the screening will be allowed into the facility.
  3. Patients can only bring 1 other person with them to the appointment.
  4. All patients (and caregivers) need to wear a mask while in the facility. Please bring a cloth or other mask with you to the appointment.
  5. Physical distancing will be in effect in the office waiting room and throughout the office.
  6. Once the physical distance capacity has been reached in the waiting room, patients will be asked to wait in their vehicles and will be called to come in at their appointment time.
  7. All surfaces in the office will be cleaned and disinfected at least on an hourly basis.
  8. All patient rooms will be cleaned and disinfected after each patient use.
  9. Caregivers waiting for patients after surgery will be asked to not wait in the facility.
  10. All staff will be wearing PPE in accordance with CDC guidelines.

We understand that these continue to be uncertain and difficult times however we remain committed to your health, well being, safety, and ensuring you the best outcome possible.

All Athenix locations are now open. However, as we continue to practice physical distancing, we are still available for virtual consultations at any of our locations. You can reach us by calling 888-276-1535 or email [email protected] to get scheduled.

We thank you for your continued support and trust in Athenix and look forward to seeing you soon.


Gavin M. Dry, M.D. Chief Medical Officer