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A new FDA-approved procedure is now being offered in San Diego for weight loss. The gastric “belly” balloon is a non-surgical, outpatient procedure that has been shown to be up to three times more effective for weight loss than those who do diet and exercise alone.

In this 20 to 30-minute procedure, a deflated silicon balloon is inserted through the mouth into the stomach with an endoscope; the patient receives mild sedation. Once inserted, it is inflated with sterile saline. Inflated, the balloon is about the size of a grapefruit. This creates a feeling of fullness and helps patients moderate food intake. After six months, the balloon is removed. Patients agree to participate in a one-year medically supervised diet and exercise program to improve long-term outcomes.

“One of the reasons why people hit a weight plateau is because dieting alone increases chemical hunger,” said Dr. Julie Ellner of Alvarado Hospital, who is one of the first doctors to offer this procedure in San Diego. “This is a way to relieve the hunger and be successful without surgery or drugs.”

“The balloon has been available for almost two decades outside of the U.S. and has proven successful in many European and other countries,” Dr. Ellner added, “For millions of people who want to lose weight without surgery, it gives them the boost they need.”

Typically, a person has to have a BMI between 30-40 to qualify and needs to lose approximately 25-50 pounds. The procedure is not currently covered by insurance.

Dr. Ellner performs the procedure at the Physicians Surgery Center at Alvarado unless otherwise advised by the physician.

Dr. Ellner will be offering a free seminar on the belly balloon on April 6 at 6 p.m. at Alvarado Hospital. To register, click heree-mail us or call (800) 258-2723.