Interview with Professor Jaime Ponce: Medical Director for Bariatric Surgery, CHI

Memorial Hospital, Chattanooga Tennessee, USA Past-President, American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) Past-President, The International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders (IFSO)
1- What is the Obalon?
It’s a treatment device that is used for patients and people who are suffering from mild to moderate obesity or overweight.
It allows the patients to have a filling capacity in the stomach that allows them to eat less.
But they have to follow a diet and exercise program along with the treatment.
They have to sallow a capsule that when it hits the stomach it gets inflated into a balloon.
There are 3 capsules/3 balloons which inflated in the stomach and must be removed within 6 months.
A patient can undergo the procedure in as an outpatient and in an office of the doctor.
No surgery needed, so it’s a good option for people who have tried losing weight through diet only but failed.
2- Tell us about the OBALON Balloon.
The concept is not a new one, in the 80’s there was another device that was approved by the FDA, it did not work well because the device wasn’t made the right way, it was cylindrical with sharp edges, it created a lot of erosions and moth blockages.
The concept of filling the stomach is an old concept. Dr. Ponce added “if you’re invited for a dinner you ate too much and you’re full, even if I invite you for more food you will not be able to eat more because you are feeling full and have eaten a lot.” That’s where the concept of feeling full comes from. They have been trying to find a solution that helps people feel full but doesn’t destroy it.
It has been an evolution, in the 90’s they came up with a concept of silicon, round with no sharp edges that can sit there in the stomach, they also understood that the stomach has a lot of acids so they also gave a medication to decrease the acids.
The studies just keep developing to provide better solutions for patients.
3- Why is it 3 balloons – not more or less?
3 balloons give you enough to fill the important part of the stomach which is called the fundus which the top portion of the stomach and the body which the middle part of the stomach, if the doctor manages to fill that part “fundus” the patient will feel full.
4- Can you use the Obalon procedure more than once?
Yes, you can use the Obalon for the 6 months’ treatment, once you take them out you have to wait for a few months and if the patient is gaining weight again the doctor and apply the procedure again for another 6 months. Just don’t use them immediately the same day of removing the balloons because the stomach needs some time to settle and to allow the patient to lose more weight. We saw in the clinical trial that the patients are able to maintain their weight for at least 6 months.
5- Is the Obalon suitable for kids with obesity?
It is not approved by FDA to be used on kids not in the USA neither in UAE. It’s only 18 years and above.
6- Can you travel while having the Obalon balloons in your stomach?
It is safe to travel with the Obalon balloons in commercial flights but if you’re traveling in a non- pressurized plane it’s not a good idea. If you’re traveling to a country that has a significant different altitude level than the one you are based in it’s not recommended. Diversity
7- Is it safe for women who are breast feeding?
Yes, it’s completely safe, but they just need to rest for a while after their delivery and then consult their doctors to proceed with the treatment.
Interview with Mr. Ahmad Ali (Product Manager)
1- What is the Obalon made up of?
All the solutions that are available in the market is made up of liquid, the Obalon is actually a balloon made up of multiple plastic layers that can be inflated inside the stomach by gas. It’s made in a way where it’s impossible for it to pop or burst inside the stomach!
2- How does the Obalon work?
It’s known in the field that such kind of treatments or procedure all need an endoscopy; however, with Obalon all you need to do is swallow the obalon capsule.
The capsule is almost as big as the Augmentin pill. Aftetr the patients swallows it, we take an X-ray of their stomach to ensure its inside. Once we are sure the capsule is in the stomach we start inflating the balloon through the “Catheter tube” that is attached to the swallowed capsule with gas.
3- What kind of patients can undertake this procedure?
First thing we do is measure the BMI (Body Mass Index), the perfect patients are the ones who have BMI’s between 27 – 37 anyone who has beyond or above this range is not a suitable patient for the Obalon.
The patient should swallow the 3 Obalon capsules during 2 months and remove all the balloons after 6 months, by endoscopy.
4- What does the pa9ent feel after swallowing the balloons?
To be frank, the first feeling the patient will feel is hunger!
Once the patient starts to eat, they will feel full as the stomach is already filled with the balloons.
There will be very little feeling of pain but it’s very mild comparing to all the other solu9ons in the market.
5- How do you remove the balloons after the 6 months, duration?
Removing the balloons must be done through endoscopy. There is a special needle that deflates the balloons which enables us to easily remove the balloons through the mouth.
6- Is there any kind of medication that the patient should take and what kind of pain does the patient get?
Yes, of course there are medications prescribed for the patients to help them tolerate the pain that comes in the form of cramps in the stomach as a reaction to the strange body inside the human stomach which very normal.
For the first 3 days the patient isn’t allowed to eat any solid food, but then life goes back to normal.

7- What happens if the patient does not commit to changing lifestyle and food regulation while using OBALON?
Naturally, the results will not be satisfied to the patient and the weight loss rate will be low. Therefore, in order to help patients to reach the best results we have provided an application called VHPGO, It is a revolutionary application to help patients to consult the doctor, get the best food recipes and exercise through mobile phones.

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