Weight loss with intragastric balloon maintained 6 months after removal

More than one-third of American adults — close to 79 million people — are obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or greater. Obesity is associated with functional impairments and comorbidities, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, arthrosis and obstructive sleep apnea. In the U.S., it accounts for 18 percent of deaths among people ages 40 to 85.

Despite the increased morbidity and mortality associated with obesity, management remains challenging. Diet and exercise often aren't enough to produce significant and sustained weight loss. Although bariatric surgery produces durable weight loss and shows the most promise for diabetes resolution, only about 2 percent of people who qualify for surgery undergo it.

The reasons for this include high surgical costs, morbidity and mortality associated with surgical interventions, patient preference, and the fact that only a minority of patients with obesity qualify for surgery. For example, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is only appropriate for patients with a BMI of 40 kg/m2 or greater or for those with a BMI of 35 kg/m2 and serious comorbidities.

"There is a big gap in the management of obesity, where diet and exercise aren't enough but patients either don't qualify for a surgical option or don't want it because of the cost and risks. People who fall into this gap represent the majority of those with mild to moderate obesity," says Barham K. Abu Dayyeh, M.D., a gastroenterologist who specializes in bariatric and metabolic endoscopy at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota.

But, he says, the newly approved intragastric balloon procedure represents an intermediate option between lifestyle change and bariatric surgery and could provide effective management for patients with a BMI of 30 to 40 kg/m2.

Intragastric balloons — then and now

The idea of using an endoscopically placed intragastric balloon for the treatment of obesity was first described in the early 1980s. An air-filled polyurethane device, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1985, was later withdrawn due to a lack of supportive efficacy data and a high rate of serious complications.

The new generation of intragastric balloons are made of silicone, implanted in the stomach endoscopically and filled with a saline solution up to 650cm3 through a self-sealing valve. The outpatient procedure takes less than 20 minutes, and the device is removed six months later.

In August 2015, the FDA approved two intragastric balloon systems, including Apollo Endosurgery's Orbera system, which has been outside the U.S. since 1997. FDA approval was largely based on efficacy and safety data from a two-year multicenter clinical trial. Dr. Abu Dayyeh presented the trial results at Digestive Disease Week 2015 in Washington, D.C.

The Orbera trial

In the Orbera trial, 125 patients were randomly assigned to balloon treatment and a 12-month behavioral therapy program; 113 patients receiving only behavioral management served as controls. The majority of participants were female, with a mean BMI of 35 kg/m2 and mean excess weight of 36 kg. Both groups were followed for 52 weeks.

Findings from the study include:

  • The balloon group lost significantly more weight than the control group over the course of the study and was able to maintain it at one year — six months after balloon removal.
  • At one year, the balloon group lost 29.29 percent of their excess weight compared with 14.2 percent in the control group, surpassing efficacy thresholds by the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Recommendations appeared in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy in 2011 and 2015.
  • Both groups experienced a reduction in comorbid conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia, but the reduction was greater among balloon patients, who also experienced improved quality of life as measured by Beck Depression Inventory scores.
  • Serious adverse events were rare in the intragastric balloon group.

"The balloon procedure is safe and fully reversible," Dr. Abu Dayyeh explains. "Severe side effects, such as small bowel obstruction, perforation or tears in the stomach, and bleeding are very rare. Many patients experience nausea and epigastric pain in the first week after implantation, but these are usually easily managed with medication and typically resolve in a few days after the stomach adjusts to the balloon."

Comprehensive obesity program

The intragastric balloon aids weight loss by slowing the rate at which food enters the stomach and by stimulating gastric stretch receptors. But lifestyle changes, including behavior modification, exercise and healthy diet, are crucial for maintaining weight loss once the device is removed, Dr. Abu Dayyeh says.

"The balloon is just one part of a comprehensive, 12-month obesity program we use to support patients in their weight-loss journey," he explains. "This is a strong, highly multidisciplinary program unique to Mayo that uses innovative, proven tools to help people with a BMI of 30 to 40 who aren't ready or don't qualify for surgery."

For more information

Cote GA, et al. A pathway to endoscopic bariatric therapies. Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. 2011;74:943.

Abu Dayyeh B.K., et al. ASGE Bariatric Endoscopy Task Force systematic review and meta-analysis assessing the ASGE PIVI thresholds for adopting endoscopic bariatric therapies. Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. 2015;82:425.