Newswise — MAYWOOD, IL – Loyola Medicine’s comprehensive weight loss center is offering a new option to treat obesity – a grapefruit-size gastric balloon that takes up as much as half the volume of the stomach.

The Orbera® gastric balloon is made of soft silicone. It is inserted through the mouth and esophagus and then filled with saline solution (salt water). The patient feels full on smaller portions of food. The balloon is kept in the stomach for six months, during which time the patient adapts to eating healthier portion sizes.

Patients who receive the gastric balloon plus medical weight loss therapy lose more weight than patients who undergo medical therapy alone, said Bipan Chand, MD, director of the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care. The balloon is less invasive and has fewer risks than gastric bypass and other bariatric surgeries, but the weight loss is less dramatic, Dr. Chand said.

Dr. Chand said the gastric balloon generally is indicated for patients with a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 40. (BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A BMI higher than 25 is overweight, and a BMI higher than 30 is obese.)

Patients who undergo medical weight loss therapy lose about 10 percent of their body weight. Patients who receive medical therapy plus a gastric balloon lose 15 percent to 20 percent of body weight, Dr. Chand said.

Loyola offers a comprehensive range of medical and surgical weight-loss treatments. Medical treatment is a multifaceted, doctor-directed weight management program that includes individualized nutrition and psychological counseling, exercise consultations, group sessions and prescription medications, if needed. Surgical treatments include adjustable gastric banding, duodenal switch surgery, laparoscopic vertical sleeve gastrectomy, endoscopic weight loss procedures and gastric bypass surgery.

“We are pleased to offer the gastric balloon as an additional option to treat obesity,” Dr. Chand said. “In carefully selected patients, a gastric balloon can be a safe and effective weight loss treatment when combined with comprehensive medical therapy.”

The gastric balloon costs $7,500 to $8,000, and generally is not covered by insurance.