Weight loss balloon less invasive, but not for everyone

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With a family history of obesity and diabetes, Mary-Laurel Book struggles with controlling her weight.

"I joined a gym and started working out and I did really well and lost about 70 pounds then I had a surgery and it prevented me from working out and so I put all of that weight back on," she says.

Then she learned about a new option: the Orbera Intragastric Balloon System. Surgeons slide a deflated balloon down the esophagus, into the stomach. Once filled with fluid, the balloon is disconnected and left behind.

"This is, for me this is very safe because it's temporary this is tool that's  going to help me  get to the goal that I want to have and that's to be healthy and to be fit," she explains.

Mary-Laurel's balloon was placed in November 2015. She was the first in the Tampa Bay area, and second in the state to get one after it's FDA approval in April 2015. We met up with her in June 2016 to see how she was doing.

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"I'm very disappointed," she admitted. "I lost 10 pounds the week before I started and then I lost a total of 26 pounds. I went into this being very positive, saying I wasn't going to be one of those people that wasn't going to be sick, I was going to do really great...and I was sick."

She was sick with constant nausea and vomiting. 

"It was happening while I was driving, I didn't go anywhere without a bucket," she said.

Her surgeon, Dr. Tiffany Jessee said it's a potential side effect.

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"It happens about ten to fifteen percent of the time that the patients experience significant nausea and vomiting for the first week or so, but honestly out of our 14 to 15 patients to date, Mary Laurel was one of the most severe cases that we had, although she was able to tolerate having the balloon the entire time and did have pretty good weight loss," Dr. Jessee explained.

She says Mary-Laurel's higher than recommended BMI may have played a role.

"We do a lot of counseling with our patients on the upper limits of the BMI scale those over 40 because they are probably more well suited for a more invasive procedure.  Sometimes they elect to undergo the less invasive procedure because they're scared and they just don't want to undergo an invasive procedure and spend time in the hospital.  We do let them know that they probably won't get the results they are looking for," Dr. Jessee explained.

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She says, overall, the Orbera Balloon is performing as expected. 

"Our experience has been good - patients are losing right where the FDA studies show which is about 15-percent. We've had a few people on the lower end, maybe at about 10-percent. We've also had patients in the high twenties,” Dr. Jessee said.

Mary laurel says since her balloon removal three months ago she feels more energetic.

"I think they learned from me and now they warn people that you may encounter these issues and I think that’s good.  I want them to tell people it may not be as easy as it seems," Mary Laurel now intends to try diet and exercise again to lose her weight.