Imagine a bariatric procedure but without the surgery and without the risks and side effects that surgery can potentially add. That’s the idea of Elipse, a procedureless weight-loss balloon made by Allurion Technologies.
The idea of a weight loss balloon is not entirely new. There are current versions of gastric balloons on the market. Currently the process involves the insertion of a balloon into the stomach using an endoscope down the throat. This endoscope is a thin tube that has a camera so the physician can correctly position the balloon, which is then filled with saline. Although there is no surgery, a patient would need to be sedated with anesthesia for the procedure. The idea of the balloon is similar to bariatric surgery where a gastric band would be placed around the stomach or the digestive system is rearranged; both surgery and balloon adjust the space of the digestive system so the amount of food that can be eaten is minimized. In this case, diet is limited because the balloon takes up much space in the stomach which can help encourage weight loss. Usually kept in the stomach for six months, the balloon is then removed with the same procedure that was used for insertion.
The Elipse Balloon builds on this idea but without the anesthesia and the endoscope. It doesn’t even need to be removed endoscopically. The balloon can be swallowed as a small capsule with a detachable catheter. Once the catheter is used to fill the device with fluid, it’s removed and the patient can return home without surgery or anesthesia. And there is no need for a removal procedure–after four months, the balloon deflates and can be naturally passed through the body.
A small pilot study was performed to assess both the safety as well as the effectiveness of the balloon. Although a small study with eight patients, it was a success with all patients losing weight and having no major side effects.
As always with any bariatric process, the procedure is not enough to guarantee long-term weight loss. During the time the balloon is in the stomach, as well as the time after its removal, a patient needs to implement diet and lifestyle change or the weight is likely to return. In this light, many view the balloon as a jump start to weight loss; after experiencing weight loss with the balloon in place and perhaps starting to change their lifestyle, people will be inspired to continue after the balloon is gone.
With obesity at epidemic levels in the US, where one out of every three adults is considered obese, solutions are needed. Although Elipse is still waiting for FDA approval, it could be a non-invasive solution to help people find success in their weight-loss journey.