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Researchers recruiting patients for free weight loss procedure

Thursday, December 13, 2012

There's a new procedure helping people lose weight. It's easy and involves only two balloons but no incisions. And best of all, it's free!

Frustrated is the word that describes Alice Pacheco. She wanted weight loss surgery, but she wasn't fat enough.

"I had gone to another place before to try and get the Lap Band and they told me my BMI wasn't high enough and that I wasn't overweight enough," Pacheco said.

So she found something new, a weight loss surgery -- without the surgery. And it's free!

"I was looking on the Internet and it popped up on a research study, so I called them and they said I qualified. I had the tests done. I was excited about having it done," Pacheco said.

This is what Pacheco chose: a balloon weight loss procedure. Surgeons take two uninflated balloons that been connected together and insert them into the stomach through the mouth. Once inflated, they simply fill space in the stomach.

"On a regular diet you're gonna be starving because you're still the same size; with the balloon it's going to make your stomach smaller so you won't be as hungry," Pacheco said.

A blue dye lets you know if a balloon breaks, and it can be quickly removed.

"It involves no incisions in the abdomen. You could call it a procedure instead of an actual surgery because it's temporary, you leave it in for six months and then you pull it out," Dr. Erik Wilson said.

It's a national study being conducted at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann. That's why it's being offered free to people who qualify.

Pilot studies show this outpatient procedure helped people lose about 30 percent of their weight when the balloon was removed in six months.

"After that first six months, a third of the patients continued to lose weight, a third of them kept that 30 percent of weight off, and a third of them gained some weight back," Dr. Wilson said.

"I think this is not a cure all, but I think it's something to help you boost your incentive to lose weight," Pacheco said.

The test will be how much she weighs in six months.

For more information about the UTHealth Reshape Balloon study, call 888-978-8398.

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