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The Orbera Stomach Balloon

Losing Weight Without Surgery

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Dr. Oz Interviews Balloon Patient(Opens in new tab)

What is the Orbera Gastric Balloon and How Does it Work?

The system is very straightforward and easy to understand. It is a soft, flexible balloon that is filled with saline inside the patient’s stomach. The balloon takes up space in the stomach like food. This helps the patient eat less at mealtimes and not snack. It is a non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical means of creating a profound sense of fullness.

What Makes the Orbera Balloon So Popular?

It helps the people who are overweight, who don’t qualify for or don’t want surgery. For years, it has been those stuck “in the middle” – needing to lose more weight than can be accomplished with dieting, but not heavy enough to need surgery – who had no viable options. It is these patients who should consider Orbera.

It doesn’t involve surgery: There has always been a tremendous need for effective, non-surgical therapies for weight loss. Diet and exercise alone fail the vast majority of the time. Many millions of people don’t need invasive surgery and can benefit from an easy, reversible procedure to help them get past the “weight loss wall” that they hit when then diet.

How Does the Weight Loss Compare to Dieting and Exercise Alone?

The US studies on the Orbera balloon show that patients with the balloon lost 38% of their excess weight, which is over 3 times the amount lost with diet and exercise alone. Patients may lose anywhere between 15 and 50+ pounds. The weight that is lost is greatly affected by how well the patient follows up with their doctor, as well as their doctor’s commitment to helping the patient be successful. No weight loss technique is foolproof. The relationship that you foster with Dr. Ellner and your commitment to her program are the keys to your success!

Who Qualifies for the Orbera Gastric Balloon?

The Orbera may be best described as a great option for people who are struggling with their weight, but don’t wish to have bariatric surgery, or who don’t qualify for surgery. It helps “bridge the gap” between failing with diets and needing major surgery. It may help people lose the weight before the problem spirals out of control where the patient would need surgery. Many people who choose the Orbera are trying to do just that – lose weight without the need for surgery.

The FDA has approved the Orbera balloon for use in patients with BMI’s between 30-40kg/m2, who haven’t had sustained success with diet and exercise alone. Many people in the lower weight ranges will also qualify. Dr. Ellner considers all applicants carefully, on a case by case basis.

What Does the Procedure Itself Entail?

One of the reasons why the balloon is so popular is that it doesn’t involve surgery. The balloon is placed endoscopically, which means that it is all done through the mouth, with the assistance of a fiber-optic camera that goes through the mouth and into the stomach. The patient is given a sedative during the procedure, which takes 15-20 minutes. The soft, deflated balloon is carefully slid into the stomach, where it is filled with saline, to reach about the size of a grapefruit. The patient typically goes home the same day, about an hour or so after the procedure.

After the Balloon is Placed – What Then?

Once the balloon is in place, the 12 month intense personal coaching with Dr. Ellner begins. Dr. Ellner has an after-surgery program that will help the patient become accustomed to the balloon and lose fat while maintaining important muscle mass. Protecting muscle while losing fat is the key to keeping the weight off in the long term, so working with Dr. Ellner, your personal Orbera Coach/Dietician and following the program is a critical element to success. To accomplish fat loss while maintaining muscle mass, it is extremely important that every patient understand the role that exercise plays in long term success. This is true with all of the weight loss techniques that Dr. Ellner uses to help her patients, so she is very familiar with customizing plans for individual patients, based on their abilities and personal goals. Your personal Orbera Coach is a specially trained Dietician who will meet with you online, one-on-one, once per month, and also in a group session with other Orbera patients once per month.

How Many Orbera Balloons Have Been Placed?

The balloon has been in use around the world for about 20 years, and over 220,000 have been placed worldwide. This has allowed doctors to collect data that is very reliable. The Orbera system has been proven to work.

Who Wouldn’t be Able to Get the Orbera Balloon?

People who have a current or previous bariatric procedure or those who have had stomach surgery are not candidates.  A woman who is pregnant or is planning on becoming pregnant within the next 6 months, or is breast feeding, must not receive the Orbera balloon. Those with a hiatal hernia may be excluded, depending on the size of the hernia. Other abdominal operations, such as gallbladder removal, hysterectomy, etc do NOT disqualify you.

What are some of the Side Effects?

Many patients feel somewhat nauseated during the initial days after the procedure, and may even vomit. As the stomach becomes accustomed to the balloon being in place, the nausea generally passes. All patients are given medication before and after the procedure to decrease the likelihood of having this side effect.

If the balloon deflates, which is extremely rare, it can pass into the digestive tract and lead to an obstruction. The balloon is removed 6 months after placement, in order to reduce the risk of this occurring.

As with any weight loss technique, the patients who have the Orbera balloon may not experience the desired weight loss. Following the program is the key to success. Commitment to the follow up program with Dr. Ellner and the Orbera Coach is critical to helping patients achieve their personal goals. Active involvement in the program and being open to making lifestyle changes are characteristics of the successful Orbera patient!

Acid reflux may occur while the balloon is in place. Dr. Ellner places all patients on antacid medicine for the entire time that the balloon is in place.

Rarely, a patient’s stomach is simply intolerant to having the balloon in place. These patients may experience cramping, bloating and ongoing nausea/vomiting and need to have the balloon removed early. 

Extremely rare are complications such as bacteria growth in the stomach, ulcers, bleeding, abdominal pain, infection, injury to the stomach/esophagus/intestines, as well as reactions to the sedation during the procedure.

For full safety information, please visit orbera.com or call 1-855-MY-ORBERA

How Long does the Orbera Balloon Stay in Place?

The Orbera balloon is designed to be in place for 6 months. The reason why it isn't permanent is that prolonged exposure to stomach acid for longer than 6 months may lead to leak of the balloon valve. Deflation may cause it to slip downstream into the intestines and potentially cause a blockage. Dr. Ellner’s program is designed to help each patient lose their weight during the 6 month period that the balloon is in place, with continued participation in the program for another 6 months to help the patient learn to keep the weight off. If patients wish to continue to follow with Dr. Ellner thereafter, they are encouraged to do so!

Is the Orbera Balloon FDA Approved?

Yes. After 20 years’ usage in Europe and 80 countries worldwide, the FDA approved it as a safe effective tool for weight loss. It is extremely popular in Australia and England, as you will hear in the patient interviews above!

How Should I Choose My Program/Surgeon?

The most important things to consider are:

How knowledgeable is your doctor/caregiver in regard to understanding people who struggle with extra weight and helping people lose it? Are they a fully trained bariatric surgeon or another type of doctor altogether? Is the doctor offering you the Orbera Coach as well as their own follow up?

The balloon goes in the same way and works the same way in your stomach no matter who you go to for the procedure. The success of each individual patient relies on the understanding, support and education you receive during the critical 12 months following your procedure! You need to ensure that you are commited to follow up with Dr. Ellner and your Orbera Coach online.

Dr. Julie Ellner's practice has focused on helping overweight patients for nearly 20 years. Her patients have described her as non-judgemental, insightful, caring and very skilled at what she does. Dr. Ellner takes a genuine interest in all of her patients and she wants every patient to be successful.

How Can I Get Started?

You need to print and fill out the  Health History Questionnaire , and fax it to  619-286-7867. Dr. Ellner's office will contact you to make an appointment for a consultation. 

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