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Gastric Balloons for Weight Loss

Our endoscopic balloon therapy provides an excellent opportunity for a wide range of patients seeking to lose weight. But our program doesn’t stop there – the nonsurgical procedure is part of a comprehensive, yearlong program to help ensure that the weight stays off.

Intragastric Balloon Devices for Weight Loss

Intragastric balloon devices offer a temporary, nonsurgical option for weight loss. The devices include balloons that take up space in the stomach, helping people feel full faster and eat less food. 

Treatment with a balloon device is part of a one-year, medically supervised weight loss program including nutrition counseling and behavior coaching. Washington University physicians at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and Barnes-Jewish Hospital have years of experience in clinical research helping people lose weight with balloon devices. 

Intragastric Balloon Devices: The Procedure

Here’s how the intragastric balloon weight loss plan works:

Balloon selection: The intragastric balloons come in three versions, with either one, two or three balloons. You will discuss the different types of devices with the physician to help decide which one is right for you.

Insertion: The outpatient procedure to place the balloon devices is slightly different for each system:

  • Single balloon system: The physician places the device in your stomach using a thin, flexible tube (endoscope) with a tiny, lighted camera. The endoscope goes through your mouth and follows your esophagus down to your stomach. You will be under light anesthesia (conscious sedation) for the procedure.
  • Swallowable balloon capsule system (three balloons): You swallow a small capsule containing the balloon. The capsule is attached to a micro-catheter (very thin, flexible tube). You may swallow up to three balloon capsules, one per visit: the second balloon two weeks after the first and the third balloon two weeks after the second.

Inflation: During the same outpatient procedure, the balloons are inflated to take up space in your stomach, helping you eat less food and feel full more quickly.

  • Single balloon system: A sterile saline solution fills the balloon in this device.
  • Swallowable balloon capsule system: After you swallow each balloon capsule (see insertion details in the previous section above), the balloon is inflated with a gas containing hydrogen and other elements.

Weight loss with device: The balloon device remains in your stomach for six months, while you participate in monthly appointments that include nutrition support for weight loss and behavior coaching for lifestyle changes.

Removal: After six months, the physician deflates the balloon(s) and removes the device using an endoscopic procedure through your mouth. You will receive anesthesia for the removal procedure. 

Continued support: You continue your monthly appointments for six more months, for a total of 12 months in our lifestyle coaching program.

Watch these videos to find out more about how the intragastric balloon devices work:

What You Can Expect With Intragastric Balloon Devices

Although each person is different and may have different results, the experience for most people includes:

Significant weight loss results

People with a balloon device lost about 8 to 15 percent of their total body weight. 

Short recovery

The recovery varies by the type of balloon device you receive:

  • Single balloon: Most people can go back to work or similar activities about three days after their procedure. You may experience abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting for about one week. We provide medications to help with these symptoms.
  • Swallowable balloon capsules: Most people can go back to work the same day of their procedure and experience little, if any, nausea or discomfort.

Post-procedure diet

To help you adjust to the device, we recommend specific diet guidelines for the different types of balloons:

Single balloon: 

  • Clear liquids for one to two days
  • Pureed foods for seven to 10 days
  • Transition to soft and regular foods as you feel comfortable 

Swallowable balloon capsules: After each balloon is placed:

  • Clear liquids for one day
  • Pureed foods the next day
  • Transition to soft and regular foods as you feel comfortable

Follow-up visits

The balloon devices include office visits after the device is placed to monitor your progress and address any side effects such as nausea, discomfort, or heartburn. Our typical timeframe for ongoing visits is:

  • Single balloon: One, five, nine, 15, 25, 30, 38 and 52 week(s) (or as needed)
  • Swallowable balloon capsules: Six, 10, 15, 25, 30, 38 and 52 weeks, beginning after the third balloon capsule appointment at four weeks

Commitment to lifestyle changes

To be successful in losing weight with a balloon device and keeping it off after the device is removed, you must commit to lifestyle changes. You may need to modify some of your behaviors and learn lifetime weight management skills, including:

  • Staying within your calorie target from the registered dietitian, perhaps recording your food choices in a food log
  • Eating healthy foods in smaller portion sizes
  • Beginning to move and get regular physical activity
  • Participating actively in the intensive lifestyle therapy program, which includes counseling with a behavior coach and taking an active role in identifying behaviors and strategies that you are willing to incorporate into your lifestyle to support weight loss

Financing for Intragastric Balloon Devices

Many health insurance plans don’t cover the cost of treatment with intragastric balloon devices. 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 procedures to place and remove the device
  • Anesthesia services for conscious sedation during the procedures
  • 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
  • Care for any procedure-related complications that may develop

Please note that certain services may not be included in the package and 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:

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

  • Surgical Weight Loss Procedures: If you are interested in having a surgical weight loss procedure, you must first attend Bariatric surgery information session. A Washington University physician will discuss our procedures and explain eligibility.
  • Nonsurgical Weight Loss Treatment Options: If you are interested in any of the nonsurgical treatment options for weight loss, you must first determine if you are a candidate and set up a personal consultation. A member of the Washington University gastroenterology team will explain the endoscopic procedures and answer your questions.

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.

Our bariatric physicians have two locations on campus:

  • 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. 
  • The Washington University Bariatric Surgery office is located in Medical Office Building 1, Suite 120. The address is 1040 North Mason Road, at the corner of North Mason and Olive Boulevard.

Get directions and maps.

NONSURGICAL WEIGHT LOSS OPTIONS: Find out if you are a candidate

Washington University Physicians accepting new patients:

Vladimir M. Kushnir, MD
Daniel K. Mullady, MD
Dayna S. Early, MD

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Find a doctor or make an appointment: 314.542.WEST (9378) OR TOLL-FREE 1.844.542.9378
General Information: (314) 996.8000
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Creve Coeur, Missouri 63141
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