Weighing your options — Today’s choices for weight reduction

Losing weight is not easy. Washington University weight-loss specialists are dedicated to the management of excessive weight. We offer medical weight management programs, traditional bariatric surgery and the recently FDA- approved non-surgical intragastric balloon system. How do you know which one is right for you? Being an educated patient is the first step in making your decision.

Medical weight management program

The Medical Weight Management program combines the expertise of physicians, psychologists, registered dietitians and physical therapists to provide a comprehensive approach to the medical management of obesity. The program includes medical monitoring, lifestyle modification, nutrition education and increased physical activity – all guided by weight-loss experts.

Gradual weight loss will be achieved by following a structured, low-calorie meal plan that includes meal replacement products. Physicians will medically monitor treatment. Patients will learn to gradually increase the number of minutes they engage in physical activity. Patients will learn weight loss skills as well as strategies for long-term weight maintenance, by adopting a healthier lifestyle that can be kept up in the long-term.

Weight loss (bariatric) surgery

Surgery may be an option for people who have severe obesity and have been unable to lose weight through diet or other means. Those who have serious obesity-related health problems may also be candidates. Generally, the various procedures – gastric bypass surgery, gastric banding and laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy – promote weight loss and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by limiting food intake. Some also interrupt the digestive process to prevent the absorption of some calories and nutrients. Bariatric surgery is performed by Washington University physician J. Christopher Eagon, MD, a board-certified specialist in minimally invasive surgery. Before and after surgery, each patient has access to the surgeon, nurse practitioners, bariatric nurse coordinator, a dietitian, physical therapist and behavior counselor. Ongoing support groups and educational activities are also offered. For the surgery to be a success, patients must be committed to lifelong healthy eating and exercise habits, medical follow-up, and supplementation of vitamins and minerals.

In order to qualify for weight loss surgery you must:

  • Be between the ages of 18-70
  • Have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater, or a BMI of 35 or greater if you have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or sleep apnea; or a BMI of 30 or greater for laparoscopic gastric banding surgery
  • Have attempted a structured dietary weight loss program without success
  • Be evaluated and approved by a behavioral therapist, a dietician and physical therapist
  • Have labs and EKG to evaluate your general condition

Non-surgical intragastric balloon system

Washington University now offers an intragastric balloon system as an addition to lifestyle interventions for weight loss. This new procedure has recently been approved by the FDA as a safe and effective alternative for someone struggling with weight loss.

This 12-month program includes: a medical evaluation, device insertion and removal, monthly group sessions and individual/personalized lifestyle coaching from a behavioral counselor and a registered dietitian. Physical therapy evaluations are available for patients with barriers to movement.

Placement of the balloon is an endoscopic outpatient procedure. Once it is in the stomach, the balloon is filled with a saline solution and deployed. The balloon induces feelings of satiety (feeling full and satisfied after eating) — aiding in effective weight loss.

Candidates for bariatric endoscopy include those who:

  • Are at least 30 pounds overweight
  • Have attempted weight-loss through diet and exercise without success
  • Have not been diagnosed with esophageal reflux disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Have not had previous surgeries in the small intestine or stomach, exception is an uncomplicated appendectomy surgery
  • Are not on blood thinners
  • Are age 22 and above