Aspiration therapy offers a nonsurgical, reversible solution for significant weight loss. Washington University physicians at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and Barnes-Jewish Hospital have extensive experience gained through their involvement in clinical research trials for the device. Our team has helped people successfully lose weight – and keep it off – with aspiration therapy.
Aspiration Therapy for Weight Loss: How It Works
Aspiration therapy provides a device that allows people to remove (aspirate) about one-third of the food from their stomachs after eating. This nonsurgical, reversible treatment for weight loss involves a port in the abdomen, to which a pump device attaches for removing the stomach’s contents. Removing food – and calories – before they are absorbed helps with weight loss.
Our bariatrics team offers aspiration therapy along with a 12-month, medically supervised weight loss program including nutrition counseling and behavior coaching.
Aspiration Therapy: The Procedure
The procedure to place the aspiration tube and port involves a number of steps:
- Tube insertion: In an outpatient procedure, the physician uses an endoscope (thin, flexible tube) with a tiny, lighted camera to place a tube in your stomach that leads to the skin outside your abdomen. You will be under light anesthesia (conscious sedation) for this procedure.
- Port placement: One week later, you return for a visit with our nurse practitioner. She attaches a port to the tube where it comes out of the abdomen, for attaching the aspiration device.
- Aspiration: About 20 to 30 minutes after eating, you attach a small device to your abdomen port to pump part of the stomach’s contents into a toilet. It takes about five to 10 minutes to remove one-third of the contents. Our nurse practitioner teaches you how to aspirate in an office visit one week after the port is attached.
- Optional removal: The tube and port can remain in your body as long as you want to continue aspiration for weight loss. If you choose, the physician can remove them in an outpatient, endoscopic procedure.
Aspiration Therapy: What You Can Expect
Each person is different and may experience different results. Most people who receive aspiration therapy can expect:
- Significant weight loss results: In clinical trials, people using aspiration therapy lost about 14 to 20 percent of their total body weight. Some patients lost 100 pounds in the first year.
- Short recovery: Most people can go back to work or similar activities within three to five days after their procedure. You may experience pain or irritation at the port site for about five to seven days after your procedure.
- Follow-up visits: You will see your care team in office visits one week after the procedure to have the port attached, and one week after that for aspiration training. Ongoing visits typically occur at one, two, four, eight, 12, 26, 38 and 52 week(s) (or when needed), then quarterly after the first year. At these visits, we will check your electrolyte levels to ensure that you are not dehydrated and that you are getting the nutrients your body needs.
- Periodic tube replacement: People typically need to have their tube replaced every 2.5 years on average, depending on when it begins to wear out.
- Program support: Aspiration therapy includes 12 monthly appointments in our lifestyle coaching program, which includes nutrition support for weight loss and behavior coaching for lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle changes for healthy weight maintenance
To successfully lose weight and keep it off, you will need to commit to long-term lifestyle changes. Our recommendations begin with a post-procedure diet to help you adjust to aspiration:
- Week two, when you receive aspiration training: Liquid and pureed foods for one week
- Week three: Soft foods for one week
- Week four: Regular foods
After you have transitioned back to regular foods, it’s important to eat mindfully, using the calorie prescription from our registered dietitians. Aspiration therapy works best when you eat slowly and chew food thoroughly so that it will fit through the tube when aspirating.
To help you maintain a healthy weight, we recommend that you:
- Aspirate three times a day until you reach your goal weight for maintenance, then once a day thereafter
- Eat healthy foods in smaller portion sizes
- Avoid snacking between meals
- Get regular physical activity
- Participate actively in the intensive lifestyle therapy program, which includes counseling with a behavior coach
Aspiration Therapy for Weight Loss: Financing
Most health insurance plans don’t cover the cost of aspiration therapy. We work with you and your insurer to determine what your plan will cover and what your out-of-pocket costs will be.
All costs must be paid before your procedure is scheduled. We offer prepaid packages that you can pay for out of pocket, with your tax-free health savings account (HSA) or with a third-party financing service. The package includes:
- Gastroenterology services for the procedure(s) and follow-up care up to 90 days after the procedure
- Anesthesia services for sedation during the procedure
- Twelve visits with a registered dietitian, within 12 months after the procedure
- Twelve monthly behavior coaching sessions, in person or via a secure, HIPAA-compliant, online interactive program, within 12 months after the procedure
- Routine care at office visits for 90 days
- Care for any procedure-related complications that may develop
Visits after the 90-day period after the procedure will be billed to the patient’s insurance. Certain services, such as tube removal, may not be included in the package. Please note that the prepaid package details are subject to change. Our program coordinator will discuss all of these options with you at the information session.
Other Procedures for Weight Loss
Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and Barnes-Jewish Hospital offer a full range of options for weight loss, including nonsurgical and surgical procedures. Our options include:
- Gastric balloons for weight loss
- Endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty
- Endoscopic gastric outlet repair
- Bariatric surgery, including gastric bypass, gastric sleeve and gastric band
Contact Us for Weight Loss Treatment
For more information or to schedule an appointment with a bariatric physician, please call Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital at 314.542.WEST (9378) or toll-free at 844.542.9378.
If you are interested in having a weight loss procedure, you must first attend one of the following information sessions. A Washington University physician will discuss our procedures and explain eligibility.
Referring physicians can call the Doctors’ Access Line at 800.252.DOCS (3627) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also visit our referring physicians page.
Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital is conveniently located just one mile west of I-270 in Creve Coeur, Missouri – a west county suburb of St. Louis.
The Washington University Bariatric Endoscopic Therapy office is located in Medical Office Building 3, Suite 100. The address is 1020 North Mason Road, at the corner of North Mason and Executive Parkway. Get directions and maps.