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Northside Hospital-Forsyth offering non-surgical weight-loss procedure

CUMMING — A new non-surgical weight-loss procedure that has been approved by the FDA is being offered at Northside Hospital.

The ORBERA Intragastric Balloon is being touted as providing patients with the benefits of weight-loss surgery without the incisions by implanting a soft, durable balloon within their stomach to take up space, causing them to feel full faster.

As a result, the patient eats smaller portions and, therefore, loses weight, according to officials at Northside, an 852-bed health care system with more than 150 locations across Georgia, including hospitals in Forsyth County, Atlanta and Cherokee County. Each hospital offers bariatric services.

“The best candidates for the balloon are motivated patients whose body mass index [BMI] is between 30 and 40 and who have tried other non-surgical weight-loss methods but have not been successful,” said Srinivasa Gorjala, a bariatric surgeon at Northside who performs the new procedure.

Obesity increases risks for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, yet more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Bariatric, or weight-loss, surgery has often been thought to be the only long-term effective treatment for weight loss

The balloon is a temporary solution that encourages portion control. While the balloon is in place, the patient is expected to work with care providers to learn healthy eating and exercise habits.

After six months, the balloon is removed, while the patient continues to work to keep the weight off.

“The typical patient will lose about 35-60 pounds,” Gorjala said.

The balloon is inserted into the patient’s stomach endoscopically, or through the mouth, during an outpatient procedure. Once implanted, it is slowly filled with saline until it reaches about the size of a grapefruit.

The procedure takes about 15 minutes, and patients go home a couple hours later.

This method takes away the risks that are often associated with surgery, including anesthesia and infection.

Patients, however, need to be realistic throughout the process, said Michael Williams, who performed the first procedure at Northside.

“The balloon is just a tool for patients who want a jump-start on their weight loss. It must be done in combination with a structured diet and exercise program,” Williams said.

“Because we continue to follow patients with all of our weight-loss options for up to a year post-procedure, they typically continue to lose weight.”