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Sharp Health News

Introducing the weight-loss balloon

Aug. 10, 2017

Introducing the weight-loss balloon

Illustration courtesy of Obera/Apollo Endosurgery.

When dietary changes and regular physical activity aren’t enough to meet weight-loss goals, many people feel like they are stuck. There is now an answer for these “in-betweeners” who are struggling to meet their weight-loss goals but aren’t interested in or a candidate for weight-loss surgery.

The weight-loss balloon is a soft, silicone device placed using an endoscope — a small flexible tube — through the mouth and into the stomach. Once in place, the deflated balloon is filled with sterile saline (salt-water solution) to roughly the size of a grapefruit. The balloon is designed to take up about one-third of the space in the stomach to help reinforce proper portion control and decrease hunger for up to 6 months.

“Patients who have the balloon procedure experience a surprising amount of appetite suppression,” says Dr. Julie Ellner, a board-certified surgeon affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, who performs the weight-loss balloon procedure. “I knew that it would make them feel fuller overall, but my patients are describing a substantial decrease in cravings.”

Side effects after the procedure include nausea, vomiting and acid reflux. This is normal as your stomach becomes accustomed to the balloon being in place, and the symptoms usually go away within a few days. Dr. Ellner advises patients who have had the procedure to rest for about a week to allow the body to adapt to the change.

The balloon is a helpful tool to establish sustainable habits. After the procedure, patients participate in 12 months of personal coaching sessions with Dr. Ellner. During these sessions, patients develop a customized plan based on their abilities and personal goals.

While proven effective, the balloon is not a cure. It is removed from the stomach after six months by being deflated and then retrieved in the same way it was inserted. Once the balloon is removed, patients are strongly encouraged to incorporate what they have learned during the first six months to navigate and maintain healthy habits.

“The second six months of coaching after the balloon is removed is just as important as the first six months while it is in place because learning to maintain a healthy weight is a lifetime commitment,” says Dr. Ellner.

“My life isn’t easier because of the weight loss, but I feel confident that with exercise and smart food choices I can live a healthy life,” says Terry Reed, a weight-loss balloon patient. “I want to be a good role model for my kids and grandkids.”

Dr. Ellner is passionate about helping people lose weight and improve their health. “I dedicate my entire practice to the treatment of obesity. All of our efforts are directed to supporting people who want to lose weight.”

Sign up for an upcoming seminar to learn more about Dr. Ellner and the nonsurgical weight-loss balloon.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Ellner about the nonsurgical weight-loss balloon for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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