Reviewed by:Frank Chae, MD, CF, FACS
vBloc Therapy helps individuals with obesity lose up to 30% of their excess weight using:
- FDA-approved implanted vagal nerve stimulator makes patients feel less hungry
- Network of highly trained surgeons, nurses, and dietitians
- Robust tools, technologies, and action plans
Read the sections below for everything you need to know about vBloc Therapy.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Click on any of the topics below to jump directly to that section
- Your surgeon will implant a hunger-controlling device under your skin, just below your rib cage
- The device is recharged at home at least every other day
- The device blocks the vagal nerve for a portion of each day, making you feel less hungry, so you'll eat less and lose weight
- You will work with a dietitian and Internet-connected tools to stay on track, also
vBloc Therapy, pioneered by Enteromedics, combines the hunger-controlling effects of the implanted vBloc Therapy device (formerly called the Maestro Rechargeable System) with a robust weight loss support program, called vBloc Achieve, to help improve patients’ long-term success rates.
The vBloc Therapy device, which functions much like a pacemaker, and can be removed or deactivated if needed, was approved by the FDA in 2015. The system uses controlled electrical stimulation to block hunger signals sent from your stomach to your brain. In other words, it works by tricking your brain into thinking your body has a lower set point
Definition: Set Point
Your body has a natural tendency to maintain a specific weight (its “set point”) and will adjust internal body processes accordingly. If your weight goes above or below its set-point range, your body will get you back in line by:
- Speeding up or slowing down metabolism
- Increasing or decreasing hunger impulses
Many people’s set point range puts them in the “obese” category because evolution has built the body to survive times of famine by storing excess fat. To learn more, see our Set Point Theory page.
The support program includes:
- Registered Dietitian to track your weight loss, make diet and exercise recommendations, provide emotional support, and motivate you to stay on track
- Technology to help you and your Registered Dietitian track your results, including an Ambio Scale to track and upload your weight loss to the internet
The vBloc Device Implant Procedure
During the procedure, your surgeon will implant the vBloc Therapy device below your rib cage just under the skin. Your surgeon will then attach the device to your vagal nerve, just above the stomach, via two leads (wires). The whole procedure usually takes between 60 and 90 minutes.
Once in place, the device will block the vagal nerve from delivering hunger signals to the brain, making you feel full between meals and full sooner after smaller meals.
The vBloc Therapy Device is made of…
- Surgical metals
- Medical grade silicone
- Rechargeable lithium battery
About the Device
The vBloc device is actually a series of several different components that combine to make your vBloc therapy device fully functional and effective:
- Neuroregulator: this is the main part of the device that will be implanted just below your skin. It is used to control the “leads” (see below) to your vagus nerve, as well as help charge the device.
- Lead System: These are the “wires” that will connect from the neuroregulator to your vagus nerve. They will deliver the electrical signals to make you feel less hungry.
- Mobile Charger: This is the device outside your skin that will be used to charge your neuroregulator.
- Transmit Coil: The transmit coil uses radio frequencies to connect the neuroregulator to either the mobile charger to charge your device or connect to the clinician programmer (see below) to make changes to your device.
- Clinician Programmer: Using the transmit coil your doctor will connect to your neuroregulator to make adjustments to your device settings, as well as download information from the device about how both you and your system are doing.
Recharging the Device
The device is battery-powered so it is important you charge it at least every other day. To recharge the device, you should:
- Connect the Mobile Charger to the AC Recharger and then plug the whole unit into the wall.
- Once the Mobile Charger is fully charged, remove it from the AC Recharger and connect it to the Transmit Coil.
- Position the Transmit Coil on the skin over the Neuroregulator. The charge in the Mobile Charger is then transferred to the Neurorgulator through the Transmit Coil.
- Secure the Transmit Coil in place with the velcro belt. Allow the device to charge for 20 to 30 minutes (may take a few hours to fully recharge, if charging is not done every two days; if the device goes two month without recharging, you may need to visit your doctor to restart it)
During charging, you can be mobile and monitor the process on the display of the Mobile Charger.
- About 25% of excess weight within 1 year
- For example, if you’re 5’ 4” and weigh 220 lbs, you will lose up to 20+ lbs within 1 year
- If you’re 5′ 9” and weigh 300 lbs, you will lose up to 35+ lbs within 1 year
Across all vBloc patients, average excess weight loss after 12 months ranges from 22% to 28%. For “moderately obese” patients (BMI 35 – 40), average excess weight loss is around 33%.
As with any weight loss surgery procedure, the amount of weight you will lose depends on:
- The surgical team that you choose and how comprehensive their pre- and post-surgery education support is
- How strictly you adhere to the pre- and post-surgery diet, exercise, and behavior regimen prescribed by your surgeon’s team
- Your body and how well it responds to your chosen procedure
vBloc Therapy Weight Loss Research
- vBloc improves diabetes and heart issues
vBloc patients, in one small study 17 of 28 patients, saw measurable improvements in hypertension and type 2 diabetes (7). For Type 2 diabetics, after 12 months, 85% of patients were able to maintain, reduce, or discontinue their current level of diabetes medications. The same study confirmed that health gains from initial weight loss are largely sustained at 24 months.
In a larger study of 147 participants (8), patients experienced significant improvements in several obesity related risk factors including:
- -9 mmHg reduction in Systolic blood pressure
- -6 mmHg drop in their Diastolic blood pressure
- -15 mg/dL drop in Cholestrol
- -41 mg/dL in Triglyceride
- -5% drop in HbA1c
- 7 inch reduction in waist circumference
General (non-vBloc-specific) weight loss research has also identified significant improvement in cardiovascular disease and diabetes with modest weight loss.
For example, one study (9) of over 5,000 people with type 2 diabetes found that those who lost 5 to 10% of their body weight had:
- Increased odds of achieving a 0.5% point reduction in HbA1c
- 5-mmHg decrease in diastolic blood pressure
- 5-mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure
- 5 mg/dL increase in HDL cholesterol
- 40 mg/dL decrease in triglycerides
All of these results are very good news for people with type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, that same study found that improvements in most risk factors improved even further for patients who lost 10 to 15% of their body weight.
vBloc therapy weight loss improves joint health. For every pound of weight lost, there is a 4 pound reduction in pressure on the knee (10). This improves mobility and reduces pain in the knees.
- Your BMI must be between 35 and 45
To qualify for any bariatric surgery you will have to meet certain qualifications. vBloc is no different. Ask your doctor to confirm that you meet all the following before you can qualify for vBloc Therapy:
- Age: 18+
- Body Mass Index (BMI) must be 35 to 45:
- 35 to 39.9 must have an obesity-related health problem such as, but not limited to:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sleep apnea
- 40 to 45, no health problems required to qualify
- 35 to 39.9 must have an obesity-related health problem such as, but not limited to:
- You have been unable to keep off weight with diet or exercise during a medically supervised diet program in the last 5 years
If you meet the above requirements, click here to contact a vBloc patient representative to find a surgeon and discuss your next steps.
vBloc Therapy may not be right if any of the following apply to you:
- Pregnancy: your surgeon may deactivate (and later reactivate) your device if you become pregnant
- Contraindications that will disqualify you:
- Cirrhosis or high blood pressure in the veins of the liver
- High blood pressure in the veins of the liver (portal hypertension)
- Enlarged veins in the esophagus
- A significant hiatal hernia of the stomach
- Already have an implanted electronic medical device, such as a pacemaker
- Plan to have an MRI or diathermy procedure using heat
- Patients at high risk for surgical complications
For a list of frequently asked questions about qualifying, see our “Do I Qualify For Weight Loss Surgery?” page.
- vBloc is only covered by VA hospitals
While parts of your total cost may be covered, vBloc Therapy is not specifically included in most insurance plans. The only exception is U.S. veterans, as vBloc is now available at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities. According to Enteromedics, the makers of vBloc Therapy, work is being done to get vBloc added to insurance plans across the country.
However, vBloc may be able to help you get some (or all) of your procedure costs paid for in certain circumstances.
vBloc Patient Representatives will help you determine whether your insurance will cover any part of your surgery. They will also help you apply for insurance coverage and appeal denials, if necessary.
- vBloc costs $18,500, on average
- If you take out a medical loan to pay for vBloc, the monthly payment is $445, on average
- Discounts & tax savings are usually available to help offset your cots
vBloc Therapy costs about the same as other types of weight loss surgery.
The total average cost is about $18,500 total (range from $17,500 – $19,500), which includes:
- Pre-Op Costs
- Surgery Costs, including the device
- Post-Op Costs, including ongoing support from the vBloc Achieve one-on-one and group coaching program)
Note that most other procedures do not include Post-Op costs in their quoted fees, such as follow-up doctor visits or device adjustments.
Financing Options for vBloc Therapy
Secured Medical Loans
A secured medical loan is a type of loan from a bank or credit union that you must back with some sort of collateral (a home being the most common form of collateral)
Unsecured Medical Loans
Unsecured medical loans allow you to borrow money without putting up collateral (see secured medical loans above). But, the tradeoff is you will pay a higher interest rate on the loan, making unsecured loans ultimately more “expensive” than a secured loan over the long run.
Payment Plan Through Surgeon
Most surgeons offer some kind of payment plan to help you make treatment more affordable. Definitely add this to your list of questions when interviewing surgeons
Friends & Family
The option of asking your friends and family to help you finance your surgery will obviously vary substantially from person to person. If thinking about this, the best thing you can do is look at the decision from as many angles as you can, and then make the best decision you know how.
Retirement Plan Loans
This may be an option for you, depending on what your retirement plan allows for. Contact your HR department or retirement planner and ask if your retirement plan allows for hardship withdrawals. But, make sure to crunch all the numbers before you do this. It’s very possible using retirement savings to invest in your health will make financial sense in the long term, but be 100% sure you’re comfortable with this trade off before spending your hard earned retirement savings.
Permanent Life Insurance Loans
A form of life insurance called “permanent” life insurance offers you benefits while you’re still alive, as opposed to paying out only after you are deceased like basic life insurance. This can be challenging to set up, and can take a significant time to accumulate value, so ask a financial planner, insurance broker, or life insurance representative for guidance before going forward.
These options can be understandably overwhelming. If you want to speak with a professional who can answer any questions for your specific circumstances…
- You won't have to stay in the hospital overnight
- You'll need to be off of work for 3 to 4 days
- You'll be "fully recovered" in 4 to 6 weeks
- You'll be able to slowly transition back to your normal activity level while your incisions heal
Recovery for this procedure is usually quick, especially compared to traditional surgeries. Your procedure will likely be performed in an outpatient setting, so you should be going home that day.
Once home, it will probably take you a few weeks of rest to fully recover, but you should be back to work in 3 or 4 days.
- You'll develop a new diet plan with your nurse or dietitian
- vBloc is great because there are no specific dietary restrictions
Because vBloc does not change your anatomy, there are no specific dietary restrictions or a risk of malabsorption (so no need for vitamin supplementation). But, your vBloc device is designed to work in tandem with lifestyle changes. So, as part of your vBloc Therapy, your nurse or dietitian will work with you to find ways to improve your diet and exercise habits.
The recommended lifestyle changes include three main components:
- One-on-One Coaching: You have the opportunity to meet remotely with an expert dietician who will help you personalize your meals and exercise routine. For example, your coach can provide you with sample menus to help you plan more nutritious and fulfilling meals.
- Personal Tracking Technology: Using the help of an electronic, wireless scale, your data can safely be shared with your dietician to give you personalized, and even real time, feedback about your weight loss.
- Online Tools and Resources: vBloc Achieve provides patients with several online resources, including:
- Meal and exercise tracking
- Step-by-Step Guides for your full vBloc experience
- Weight loss education materials
- Helpful videos to help you learn the best
These changes to your day-to-day meals and exercise routine are not required (in the sense that you will face medical complications if not followed). However they are highly recommended to ensure you successfully lose weight and, most importantly, keep it off.
Relationships After Weight Loss
Over time, many patients experience a significant improvement in the quality of their sex life after weight loss surgery (11). This improvement is related largely to changes in the way a patient perceives their body and the resulting increases in self-confidence.
Relationship changes are another great reason to participate in a bariatric surgery support group. These support groups can provide insight and encouragement throughout your weight loss journey.
See our Relationships After Weight Loss page for real stories about relationships after weight loss… and please share your advice and experiences as well.
- There is a moderate risk of non-serious complications
- The side effects may include digestion issues
Non-Severe Complications & Side Effects
The most commonly reported non-severe problems associated with vBloc Therapy include:
- Abdominal Pain or Cramping
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Indigestion (dyspepsia)
- Surgical Pain
Most of these issues were mild to moderate in severity and are not permanent and resolve on their own (12).
Serious Complications & Side Effects
At 3.7%, the rate of Serious Adverse Events (SAE) for vBloc Therapy is lower than all other implanted devices for weight loss (13) and is lower than the serious complication rate of more invasive bariatric surgery procedures like gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and lap band surgery.
Documented vBloc Therapy SAE’s include:
- Vomiting (less than 1% of patients)
- Neuroregulator malfunction
- Pain at the neuroregulator site
- Collapsed lung
- Gallbladder disease
Additional risks to consider:
- The long-term effects of vBloc Therapy have not been studied
- The rate of patients requiring vBloc revision surgery to reposition, replace, or remove the device is about 1 in 15 patients after 18 months (6.8%) (14)
vBloc Therapy does not affect your ability to get pregnant because it does not alter your anatomy. However, you cannot have this procedure if you are currently pregnant, and you will need to have the device deactivated immediately if you become pregnant. The device can be deactivated (stop therapy) and reactivated (start therapy) wirelessly by your surgeon at any time.
Interference with Other Devices
The vBloc Therapy device can interfere with other devices such as:
- Airport security screening devices – your device will likely set off metal detectors and may be seen through airport screening technology. You should not experience any delays as long as you present your vBloc ID card.
- MRI machines – it is not safe to have an MRI with the vBloc device in place as it can result in pain, heating, burns, or nerve damage. Contact your doctor to discuss before having an MRI.
- Pacemakers – patients with a pacemaker cannot have vBloc Therapy because the devices can interfere with each other.
- Defibrillators – likewise, patients with defibrillators cannot have vBloc Therapy.
- Lowest risk of Serious Adverse Events (SAE) among all weight loss procedures
- One of 4 procedures that is reversible
- Only procedure that directly controls hunger impulses
- One of 2 procedures with no specific diet restrictions
- Less weight loss than more involved procedures
- No long-term research available
Generally speaking, the other more invasive weight loss procedures result in more weight loss and therefore a higher degree of health improvement than vBloc Therapy.
However, vBloc Therapy has the lowest rate of complications, does not require significant diet changes, and has fewer and less severe side effects than most other widely accepted procedures.
Total costs of vBloc are comparable to other types of surgery, although vBloc (along with Gastric Balloon) is less likely to be covered by insurance.
- Click here to take the vbloc therapy quiz
vBloc Therapy: Test Your Knowledge
Well-educated patients are more likely to be successful over the long-term. Test your knowledge to ensure that you’re ready to take the next step!
YOUR GOAL: Try to answer at least 11 out of 12 questions correctly
- Ask the expert
- Patient experiences
We would love to hear your experiences with the gastric sleeve surgery. Much like how support groups help others, your insights are invaluable to making sure other people have the tools to meet their goals.
We would also be happy to answer any questions you may have about gastric sleeve surgery.
Please use the form below to share your experience or ask a question…
Questions From Other Visitors*
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page.
- You can ask a local bariatric practice for a free insurance check or cost quote
- You can attend a free in-person seminar or an online webinar offered by a local weight loss surgeon
- You should schedule a phone or in-person consultation (both often free), if you are interested in learning more about weight loss surgery
Search the vBloc surgeon directory below to find a top surgeon by country and region: