Over the last ten years, the United States has been gradually shifting its thinking about obesity, now regarding the condition as a medical problem instead of a personal one. Considering that more than one-third of our population suffers from obesity, this shift in thinking has helped pave the way for research and development in two distinct but complementary areas: weight-loss surgery and medical weight loss. At Houston’s UT MIST Center for Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery, our team welcomes the latest advances described below and views them as valuable tools for fighting obesity, enabling us to better customize the treatment or procedure to meet the unique needs of each patient we serve.
Weight-loss Surgery at Houston UT MIST: What’s New?
According to Erik B. Wilson M.D., Medical Director of Weight-loss Surgery at Houston’s UT MIST Center for Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery, the most exciting new development in weight-loss surgery does not require surgery at all. The ORBERA™ Intragastric Balloon System, approved by the FDA in August 2015, is placed into the stomach through the mouth during a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure. The patient is under mild sedation, and the procedure requires no incisions.
The ORBERA™ Intragastric Balloon works by occupying space inside the stomach, enabling patients to achieve weight-loss goals by helping them feel full even when they have eaten only small amounts of food. The ORBERA™ system is designed to kick-start a comprehensive medical weight-loss plan, which also includes dietary changes and regular exercise. Considered an endoscopic bariatric therapy (EBT), the ORBERA™ balloon is ideally suited for patients with a BMI of 27 or higher who would like to lose 30 to 50 pounds. It is intended for short-term use of no longer than six months.
According to an American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) task force, endoscopic bariatric therapies like ORBERA™ can help bariatric surgeons serve a specific patient population: individuals who have been unsuccessful losing weight through diet and exercise alone, or who are poor candidates for traditional bariatric procedures or simply unwilling to undergo weight-loss surgery. A September 2015 article in the journal Gastrointestinal Endoscopy summarizes the task force’s position on EBTs: “Considering the modest effects seen with medications or lifestyle intervention alone in patients with obesity, EBTs appear well suited to bridge the current management gap by offering an effective weight-loss intervention with potentially lower risks, lower costs, and higher patient acceptability.”
At Houston UT MIST, we follow the ASGE’s recommendations and use EBTs to complement, rather than compete with, current obesity therapy options. The ORBERA™ Balloon can serve as an effective treatment alternative, particularly when combined with a comprehensive medical weight-loss program. Because the balloon is placed endoscopically, the procedure involves low risk, no recovery time, and consistent results. When the ORBERA™ Balloon is combined with a medical weight-loss program at the UT Center for Obesity Medicine and Metabolic Performance (COMMP), many of our patients experience exciting, long-term weight-loss success.
Medical Weight Loss: What New Pharmaceutical Therapies Are Available at UT COMMP?
Two of the most exciting new pharmaceutical therapies for medical weight loss at Houston UT COMMP include Saxenda® (liraglutide), which the FDA approved in December 2014, and CONTRAVE® (bupropion and naltrexone), which received approval in September 2014. Both medications are designed to reduce appetite throughout the day and boost metabolism. They are intended to supplement lifestyle modification, including a reduced-calorie diet and regular exercise, and both are approved for long-term use.
The FDA approved both medications for patients with a BMI of 30 or greater, or a BMI of 27 or higher with other serious health problems related to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. A May 2015 The Huffington Post article by William Anderson, MA, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, claims that Saxenda® is “perhaps the most important weight loss medication ever developed” because it mimics one of the body’s own appetite-regulating hormones to help patients decrease their extreme hunger, cravings, and food addictions. Unlike other weight-loss medications, Saxenda® is administered once daily by injection.
According to Deborah B. Horn, D.O., medical director of the UT MIST Center for Obesity Medicine and Metabolic Performance (COMMP), Saxenda® and CONTRAVE® are just two of many pharmaceutical options available for patients who would like to gain control of their appetite and jump-start a serious medical weight-loss program: “Anti-obesity medications can play an important role for our weight-loss surgery patients, helping some lose weight prior to surgery and helping others to prevent or reverse weight regain that occurs in some patients following weight-loss surgery.” Dr. Horn and the UT MIST COMMP team view obesity as a disease and, like other diseases, it deserves scientific, evidence-based, comprehensive care.
For more information about weight-loss surgery or medical weight loss at the Houston UT MIST Center for Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery, visit our website. We treat many types of patients from all walks of life, and we would be happy to discuss your treatment options with you to formulate a plan that helps you lose weight and keep it off.