A real patient’s perspective on the Apollo Intragastric Balloon
While doing our own research, looking for patients who chose the intragastric balloon over traditional surgery, we came across the below article from a Pittsburg publication. It was interesting to learn a patient’s perspective as an alternative to the normal industry buzz or physician’s opinion….
Balloon belly-buster installed at Magee-Women’s extolled
By Ben Schmitt
Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, 10:57 p.m.
Andrew Griffin spent six months with a grapefruit-sized balloon in his belly — by choice.
The 51-year-old Monroeville man tried diets, pills and exercise regimens but still found himself 40-plus pounds overweight. In 2008, he signed up for a study through UPMC in which a doctor used a scope to insert a small balloon into his mouth, down his esophagus and into his stomach before filling it with about a half-liter of saline.
The silicone balloon was intended to make Griffin feel full. It worked.
“The first time I ate, actually, it was like I had a Thanksgiving dinner,” Griffin said. “But I only had a very small portion.”
Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Orbera Intragastric Balloon, devised by Apollo Endosurgery Inc. in Austin. It’s designed to help adults older than 18 who have a body mass index of 30 to 40, or are 50 to 90 pounds overweight, and avoids the increasingly popular bariatric surgeries.
“This product is among the first of a new class of less invasive therapies for obesity,” Dennis McWilliams, founder of Apollo Endosurgery, told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday. “It’s a bridge between diet and exercise and invasive surgery.”
McWilliams said the treatment, which includes the balloon insertion and removal along with a diet, counseling and exercise program, costs between $6,000 and $8,000 and is not covered by insurance. The overall health and counseling programs continue for a year after the balloon’s removal.
Dr. Anita Courcoulas, director of minimally invasive bariatric and general surgery at Magee-Womens Hospital, played a key role in a national clinical trial and is the only doctor in the state trained to insert the balloons.
“The company has made a conscious decision to launch this in a very proactive and thorough way through people that are trained and people that have lifestyle and weight management programs,” she said. “A balloon without the weight management program is not going to be a success in the long run.”
Griffin, a UPMC career development coach and Realtor for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, never suffered side effects but noticed a bubble in his abdomen when he laid down.
At 5 feet 10 inches tall, he began the treatment weighing 230 pounds and weighed 198 pounds after Courcoulas removed his balloon through an endoscopic procedure six months later. His waist size dropped from 38 or 40 to 35.
Then the real challenge began. He regained about 5 pounds after a month, but through better nutrition and frequent trips to the gym, he brought his weight back down to 198.
“It is a life-changing thing,” Griffin said. “But you cannot go back to the same old stuff after the balloon comes out, or it will be as if it never happened. This opened my eyes to a lot of things. I still like to eat, but I don’t fill the plate as much as I used to. It’s a commitment.”
But it’s not a novelty on a global basis.
The Orbera balloon has been used in 80 countries and placed in more than 220,000 people. On average, patients lose 20 to 30 pounds through the treatment, McMillan said.
The FDA was slow to approve the process — skeptical of the balloons’ long-term potential for success — but now recognizes it as an effective form of weight loss therapy, he said.
An estimated 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight. And the balloon’s most common side effects, nausea and cramping, generally disappear after several days.
“The stomach is trying to get rid of this big large foreign body — typically nothing would be sitting in the stomach for that long,” Courcoulas said. “So people can anticipate some nausea and cramps.”
She said because of the Orbera’s extensive use, concerns about leakage and spontaneous deflation are minimal.
Griffin found the procedure seamless enough that he’d go through it again. Not that he intends to.
“When I looked in the mirror, I always saw an overweight man and it was not a good feeling,” he said. “This really gave me a jump start to getting active and eating right. It’s a great thing to not have an operation and lose the weight.”
Scott Bovard, MD, FACS, Board Certified
Scott A. Bovard MD is originally from Colorado where he completed his undergraduate degree at Colorado State University. After a stint in the US Air Force which afforded him the opportunity to travel worldwide, he matriculated into medical school at Ross University School of Medicine.