Balloon weight-loss procedure offers alternative to invasive surgeries

Orbera weight loss balloon takes up stomach space, removed after 6 months

By Kristi Krueger - Anchor/Health Reporter

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - The weight loss struggle is real.

About 80 percent of people who lose weight gain it all back within two years, and sometimes they pack on even more pounds than they shed.

It's called yo-yo dieting and Daniela Luna has been on that weight loss roller coaster for as long as she can remember.

"Since I was 14, I've been struggling to lose weight," Luna said. "I've tried all the diets, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig (and) Dr. G."

Luna wasn't ready for major surgery, since gastric bypass or lap band seemed too invasive.

However, bariatric surgeon Dr. Jeremy Eckstein from Memorial Hospital in Pembroke Pines gave Luna another option.

It's called the Orbera weight loss balloon, and it's designed for people who need to lose 30 to 60 pounds.

"I said, 'Let me try the balloon because I know I have the power to do this. I know I have to be disciplined.'"

Eckstein said the surgery is for "motivated patients" like Luna who have a goal in mind that they want to reach.

"The balloon is there to help then do that," he said.

The balloon helps by taking up space in the stomach, tricking the brain into thinking the stomach is full of food.

"They don't feel hungry and when they do eat, it takes less amount to make them comfortable," Eckstein said. "So the idea is to make people eat less and feel comfortable in a very minimally invasive way."

The balloon is placed into the patient while they are out under light sedation.

Doctors first insert a scope with a camera into the throat and into the stomach.

"And then we slide down another tube with a balloon at the end and we fill the balloon with saline water and it inflates to the size of a grapefruit," Eckstein said.

What makes the the Orbera weight loss balloon different is that it's temporary.  

In six months, the balloon is removed and the patient continues to meet with a nutritionist to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Luna is already meeting with her nutritionist and learning ways to keep the pounds off.

Two weeks after undergoing the balloon procedure, she  had dropped more than 20 pounds.

Luna has high blood pressure and has prediabetes, but her weight loss isn't just about her health. She said she wants to be a role model for her children.

Winning the fight with obesity is always good.

"After the balloon is removed, I have to continue," Luna said. "It's a lifestyle. It's a change in your life."

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