MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There’s excitement about a new weight loss procedure just approved by the FDA.

Mayo Clinic doctors say it could be a powerful tool in the fight against obesity.

The key feature is a silicone balloon filled with saline.

Doctors use an endoscope to place a deflated balloon inside a patient’s stomach. Then it’s inflated, taking up space and reducing hunger. Six months later, it’s removed.

The technique has been used in Europe and Australia for several years, but last Friday the first procedure since approval in the U.S. happened at the Mayo Clinic.

Mark Harlan’s doctor suggested he try something new to help him lose weight.

“He said, ‘Do you want to be the first?'” Harlan recalled. “I had to think about it a little bit, but then I said, ‘Let’s rock.'”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Harlan is 5-foot-9 and weighs 221 pounds. He says even though he tries to stick to a healthy diet and loves to exercise, he has struggled with his weight for years.

“It’s pretty obvious if you look at me that I need to lose a few pounds,” he said. “I’ve been trying and I’ve been trying and I’ve been trying, and it doesn’t work,” he said.

But maybe the intragastric balloon will.

Dr. Barham Abu Dayyeh, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, oversaw the clinical trials of the Orbera intragastric balloon.

“It will decrease the amount of food that enters your stomach at a particular point, and also stimulates the stretch receptors in your stomach to tell your brain that there is something in there,” he said. “So you consume less calories and feel full at the same time.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

As Harlan’s procedure gets underway, his entire medical team was present, including the nutrition specialists and psychologists who will offer counseling for the next year to help him make lifestyle changes.

Once the balloon is inserted into the stomach, a syringe is used to fill it with a saline solution.

The FDA says, in nationwide clinical trials, patients who had the balloon procedure lost an average of 21 pounds after six months, which was better than the seven pounds lost in patients who only tried diet and exercise.

Better yet, nine months after the balloon was taken out, those patients had maintained an average weight loss of 19 pounds.

About 20 minutes after they started the procedure, the doctors were done. And 20 minutes later, Mark woke up.

“I have no pain,” he said. “I mean nothing.”

For more information about the Orbera balloon visit its website or read about who the FDA recommends should use it. For more information on new procedures, or in depth studies on current ones, visit the Mayo News Network online.

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