Gastrointestinal Associates (GIA), one of the Southeast’s leading GI practices, has launched GIA 180, a program that uses a balanced, multifaceted and surgery-free approach to weight loss featuring ORBERA, the global market leader for intragastric balloons.
Used in more than 220,000 people in over 80 countries, the ORBERA balloon is placed endoscopically and fills space in a patient’s stomach to reinforce proper dietary portion control. Recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the United States, it is the only balloon to be recognized by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy for having demonstrated its ability to safely and effectively assist in managing obesity.
Geared toward patients with mild to moderate obesity, the ORBERA balloon is suitable for both men and women with a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 40, typically around 30-40 pounds overweight. After six months with the ORBERA two-part program, people lost an average of 3.1 times the weight patients lost with diet and exercise alone.
“GIA 180 is designed to work with patients to reach a healthy weight in a healthy way,” said Dr. Bergein “Gene” Overholt, GIA co-founder. “We’ve been caring for our patients’ digestive health since 1971 and have witnessed firsthand the health problems that come from carrying extra weight. This program is a way to enhance our care, address obesity-related health problems and help prevent those problems before they arise.”
For patients with a BMI between 30 and 40, treatment will start with an individualized diet and exercise program, along with placement of the balloon. For those with a BMI higher than 40, treatment will start with an individualized weight loss plan, possibly including a breakthrough weight loss pill to help them reach a BMI of 40 or below. Then the ORBERA balloon can be inserted with the intent to accelerate additional weight loss.
“The balloon is placed in the stomach during endoscopy, a nonsurgical procedure taking 30 minutes or less and requiring only a mild sedative,” Overholt said. “We became the country’s first licensed and Medicare-certified endoscopic ambulatory surgery center in 1986 and currently perform thousands of endoscopic procedures each year, making us uniquely qualified to treat patients using the ORBERA system.”
Once in place, the balloon is filled with sterile saline to make it the size of a grapefruit, filling the stomach and reinforcing dietary portion control. Most weight is lost during the first three months, but the balloon stays in place for a period of up to six months while patients work with a support team of experts – physician, case manager, dietitian and exercise physiologist – to learn healthy eating and exercise habits for long-term success.
After six months, the balloon is removed. Thereafter, patients continue working with the health care team for an additional six months or an additional 18 months to help ensure long-term results.
Overholt and Dr. Charles O’Connor are trained to perform the procedure and currently are accepting patients for enrollment in the program. Melissa Mahan, a registered nurse who has worked at GIA for several years, will be the GIA 180 program director.
“The people of this community know and trust GIA,” Overholt said. “Now they can trust us to help them lose weight, change their lifestyle direction and change their lives. It starts here at GIA 180.”