Mark Harlan tried diets. He tried exercise. He modified his behavior and his lifestyle. Yet nothing worked to keep off extra weight that had plagued him for years. Nothing worked, that is, until Mark underwent a cutting-edge procedure designed to help those who don’t qualify for gastric bypass surgery to shed excess pounds.
In 2015, Mark was the first person in the nation to receive the Obera intragastric balloon. The grapefruit-sized, saline-filled, silicone balloon was placed and inflated in Mark’s stomach during a minimally invasive, outpatient endoscopic surgery at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus.
In the six months Mark had the balloon — the device was removed during a second endoscopic procedure — he lost 30 pounds, or about 15 percent of his body weight, says Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Barham Abu Dayyeh, M.D.
The balloon helps its recipients by taking up space in the stomach so they eat less. It also slows the pace at which the stomach empties, so they feel full longer.
“It’s a useful tool because it’s simple,” says Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Christopher Gostout, M.D. “It’s easy to put in and very low-risk.”
The device’s effectiveness was born out in a recent, randomized clinical trial comparing people who had the intragastric balloon procedure, along with behavioral therapy, to those who only received behavioral therapy. Those with the balloon lost 29 percent of their excess weight at the end of one year, compared to a 14 percent loss in those who only received behavioral therapy.
In addition to his weight loss, Mark saw decreases in health problems associated with obesity, including a drop in his blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as a reduction in the amount of insulin he needs to control his type 2 diabetes.
“It’s a lifelong commitment on both parts — on both the part of the team and myself,” Mark says.
To hear more about Mark’s story, watch the video below: