Patients participating in free weight loss study involving balloons seeing results

February 5, 2013 8:18:12 AM PST
In December, we told you about a new procedure that uses balloons to help people lose weight. Now, we're checking back with our first patient to see how well the weight loss is going.

Alice Pacheco went on a cruise and actually lost weight -- 14 pounds.

"It was a challenge because there is so much food," Pacheco said.

"You try to limit yourself to one entree instead of four," she added, laughing.

She did it using balloons. It's part of a UTHealth study at Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Two un-inflated balloons are inserted into the stomach through the mouth. Once inflated, they fill the stomach and make you feel full.

"It's temporary. You leave it in for six months and then you pull it out," explained Dr. Eric Wilson, a bariatric surgeon with UTHealth.

It's like having weight loss surgery without any incisions.

"I weighed 220 then I weigh 210 now, so I dropped 10 pounds in the last week," study patient Tony Spano said.

Spano is participating in a "blind" study of the balloons. He doesn't know yet if he actually got them, but he says he feels different.

"Not having the urge to eat as you normally would, you feel full," he said. "Feel full all the time."

In pilot studies, the balloon patients lost about 30 percent of their weight in six months.

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

Will inflating balloons in your stomach really be the next big wave in weight loss? The real test is how much Pacheco and Spano weigh in six months.

Thirty Houstonians are in the study right now, and researchers are still looking for test patients. If you qualify, it's free.

The study is still open for patients, although thousands of Houstonians have been calling since we aired our first story. You can learn more about balloon weight loss by visiting or calling 888-978-8398.