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Weight-loss balloon Obalon launched
The balloon sits on top of the stomach, giving patients the sensation of fullness (Gregor Schuster/Obalon/PA)
A new weight loss balloon that can be swallowed in a pill has been launched across the UK.
Unlike other gastric balloon treatments, Obalon does not require invasive surgery. Instead, in a 10-minute procedure, patients swallow a capsule the size of a large vitamin pill which contains a deflated balloon.
The capsule is attached to a micro-catheter and, once the capsule arrives in the stomach, the balloon is inflated to the size of an apple. The capsule dissolves and the catheter is removed via the mouth.
The balloon sits on top of the stomach, giving patients the sensation of fullness with the hope they then eat less and lose weight.
Patients receive a second balloon 30 days after the first procedure, with the option of a third balloon after around 60 days, based on their weight loss and feelings of fullness.
At the end of the treatment plan, which can be over several months, the balloons are deflated and removed during an outpatient endoscopy. This is where a thin, long, flexible tube is inserted into the throat. without the need for general anaesthetic.
Obalon costs from £2,995 for a two-balloon treatment. It is available privately at some Spire Hospitals within the M25 and several other clinics in London.
The treatment is more short-term than other gastric procedures and is recommended for people whose body mass index is 27 or over.
Clinical trials here and in the US have shown that patients can lose an average of 1st, 3lbs (7.7kg) in 12 weeks.
One patient, Helene Fleckney, 43, from Shenley in Hertfordshire, said: "History of heart disease and diabetes runs in my family, so I knew I had to take action with my weight gain to lower my risk of susceptibility, as well as improving my confidence.
"Obalon has proved an easy and quick treatment to help me lose weight. I'm not even fully through the treatment process yet and I've already lost a stone.
"I'm looking forward to eating more healthily, doing more exercise and ensuring my weight loss struggles are a thing of the past."
Spire consultant Sally Norton said: "I've been monitoring Obalon's progress over the last few years as I was very excited about the potential it could offer those patients who do not qualify for weight loss surgery but are struggling to lose weight and improve their health on their own.
"It has minimal side effects, is quick and easy to place and is really well-tolerated.
"It gives patients an initial weight-loss boost but also helps to change their eating behaviour - which is needed for long-term, weight-loss."
Clinical trial results showed around 7% of patients had some side-effects including vomiting, cramps and reflux, which generally subsided in a day or so.
Each balloon can stay in place for 12 weeks before it is removed. Therefore, at most, patients can have a 36-week treatment plan.