FORT MYERS, Fla. Jim Milner credits three balloon-filled pills for helping him lose 51 pounds in five months.
He’s an early user of a new FDA-approved treatment marketed by Obalon, a San Diego-based medical technology company. Once the pills are in the stomach, the capsules dissolve, leaving just the balloons.
A doctor fills the balloons with nitrogen and oxygen through a catheter.
“This is something you could come in and do on your lunch hour and go back to work,” said Dr. Rishi Ramlogan, general and bariatric surgeon for the Surgical Healing Arts Center in south Fort Myers.
The balloons take up space in the stomach, allowing patients to eat less but still feel full.
“It feels like you just got done with a Thanksgiving dinner,” Milner said.
The balloons work in conjunction with other healthy lifestyle changes — they don’t do all the work themselves, Ramlogan said.
“You’re not getting a new stomach. You’re not getting a smaller stomach,” he said. “But you’re getting a coach that lives with you basically for six months and is coaching you every day.”
The balloons remain in the stomach for six months, after which a doctor deflates them and takes them out via endoscopy.
Some patients have reported nausea and abdominal pain while the balloons are in, with 10 to 20 percent of patients experiencing heartburn, bloating and vomiting.
Milner hasn’t had any side effects.
“I don’t have any feeling that they are in there,” he said.