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What Is a Gastric Balloon?

The New Procedure That Promises Big Weight Loss

If you overeat and don't have the willpower to stop yourself, the pounds will pile on, and one day, you'll find your doctor putting you in the "obese" category. If you've tried every diet in the book but found them too restrictive to stick with, there's a new nonsurgical procedure that takes 15 minutes and serves as built-in portion control.

It's known as the gastric balloon, and it's marketed under two names, the Orbera (single balloon) and the ReShape (two connected balloons). How does it work? Once the patient is sedated, a doctor uses an endoscope (a tube with a camera on the end) to insert a deflated balloon through the mouth, down the throat, and into the stomach. The balloon is then filled with saline solution, taking up space in the stomach, so the person feels less hungry and loses the urge to overeat. It stays in for six months, deflates, and is then removed.

It may seem like an amazing solution for those who've been struggling with their weight but who don't weigh enough to qualify for gastric bypass surgery. To qualify for a gastric balloon, the patient has to have a BMI between 30 and 40. In the first few days of insertion, the patient can expect to experience severe nausea, vomiting, and pain from stomach spasms. The good news is after three days, patients feel fine and can expect to lose between 20 and 70 pounds within that six-month period.

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Both are FDA approved, and your doctor can help you choose which version is best. The ReShape holds twice as much saline as the Orbera, so it's recommended for bigger weight loss. The gastric balloon is not covered by insurance and costs between $7,500 to $10,000 — yikes! But for those who've found success, it's worth the cost to gain control of their life and eating habits.

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