By Katie Canales
Like 60 million Americans, Amy has gained weight she has been unable to lose through diet and exercise alone, but she doesn’t qualify for bariatric weight-loss surgery. Last year, a new, non-surgical weight loss procedure called the ReShape Dual Balloon received FDA approval, and Amy Plotts will be the first patient to undergo the procedure locally.
The non-surgical procedure takes about 20 minutes and will be performed by Dr. John Mason of CHI St. Joseph Health. It is the first step of a 12-month program designed to help patients lose weight and move on to a healthier lifestyle.
ReShape utilizes two balloons that are endoscopically implanted and inflated inside the patient’s stomach where they work to curb appetite and reduce the amount of food that is eaten. The procedure is followed by a full year of comprehensive dietary support with follow-ups done at Mason’s office in order for patients to achieve successful weight loss.
In addition to monthly meetings with Mason and a registered dietician to discuss food choices and quantity of food consumed, patients receive a specially designed plate to help manage portion control. They also receive a Fitbit and Fitbit scale to track results, which are downloaded for Mason to review.
Amy says she is eager to learn about healthy eating habits for herself, as well as for her sons and husband.
“I am as excited for the 12 months of nutritional counseling as I am about six months of having a balloon in my belly,” says Amy. “I feel like the procedure will help me get a jump start on what I’m trying to do, and the counseling will help me to maintain, and it will be beneficial to my family.”
Mason is a member of a bariatric surgery practice that offers surgical weight loss procedures such as the Lap Band and the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. Mason is the only bariatric surgeon in the area to offer ReShape, with fewer than 10 other doctor’s offices in Texas currently offering the procedure.
Mason explains that for people who are morbidly obese, surgical procedures are recommended. Those who are only a few pounds overweight should to stick to diet and exercise. Patients such as Amy, he says, fall in a middle category, and until ReShape, there have not been effective weight-loss options.
“Now, there’s this huge gap between just a few pounds overweight and the people that need surgery,” explains Mason. “Sixty million Americans, a huge population, are in that section. We try the diet programs, we try medications perhaps, but they don’t work all that well. And so this device is a non-surgical option for those people in the middle that need to lose 25 to 100 pounds.”
Mason says on average 25 to 75 pounds are lost with the ReShape device in six months – the duration of the balloon implants. After six months, the balloons are removed, and the dietary consultations continue for another six months.
Every weight loss procedure has pros and cons, explains Mason. Diet medications can cause blood pressure and heart problems to develop. With the Lap Band, it is easy for the patient to “cheat” and consume foods that can be digested but that aren’t healthy. With ReShape, the discomfort is in the days immediately following the balloon implant.
“It’s uncomfortable, because when this is filled, it’s heavy, and it kind of pulls on the stomach,” says Mason. “You kind of feel a discomfort, you feel nauseous, and it takes a few days to get over it. So we heavily medicate the folks for a few days just to get them through those first few days.”
Once the initial discomfort wears off, what follows is less hunger and eating in smaller increments, says Mason, which results in the weight beginning to fall off.
Mason explains that while a deflation of a balloon could occur, with ReShape the balloons are independent so that migration of the system will not occur. “The Dual Balloon is a safety tool that prevents total rupture of the system,” explains Mason. “It is very rare that one balloon would deflate, and extremely unlikely for both to deflate. The balloons are filled with safe blue dye that will color urine if one deflates.”
This is a safety improvement, says Mason, and the company would replace the device if this were to occur.
The FDA approved ReShape in June 2015. In U.S. clinical trials, 85 percent of weight loss was maintained after two years, notes Mason. Currently, most insurance companies that cover weight loss surgeries are not yet covering the ReShape procedure, so payment is out of pocket.
The ReShape Dual Balloon is an option for those with a BMI of between 30-40 who haven’t succeeded at weight loss with diet and exercise alone. Currently in the Brazos Valley, the ReShape Integrated Dual Balloon is available only through Mason’s office at CHI St. Joseph Health.