A gastric balloon, also known as stomach balloon, is an inflatable medical device that is temporarily placed into the stomach to reduce weight. It is marketed to provide weight loss when diet and exercise have failed and surgery is not wanted or not recommended.
The balloon limits the amount of food the stomach can hold and creates thereby an early feeling of fullness and satiety. Less intake of food will result in weight loss. After up to six months (or up to twelve months with some newer devices), the device is removed using endoscopy again. Longer stay of a balloon is not advised because of the danger of damage to the tissue wall and degradation of the balloon. The use of the balloon is complemented with counseling and nutritional support or advice.
Endoscopic placement of the balloon is temporary and reversible without surgical incisions. The (intra)gastric balloon for weight loss differs from the Sengstaken-Blakemore balloon used to stop esophageal and gastric bleeding.
A gastric balloon works by taking up space in your stomach so that you feel full sooner and need to eat less. As you eat a smaller amount of food, you lose weight. It won’t help if you eat soft foods, sweets or drink high calorie liquids
It allows you to get used to having smaller food portions and adopting a healthier lifestyle. When the gastric balloon is removed you will, hopefully continue with your newly trained lifestyle and eating patterns. You must be committed to a supervised gastric balloon diet and modified lifestyle both whilst the balloon is inserted and after it has been removed.
The benefits of a gastric balloon are that it offers a non-surgical reversible weight loss treatment option that may help you to develop long term new eating habits. The weight loss can also improve any obesity-related health problems such as type 2 diabetes.
A gastric balloon is recommended for patients who:
The intragastric balloon is typically suitable if you have a BMI of 27 to 35 and you are prepared to make long term changes to your diet and lifestyle, under the supervision of a weight loss consultant and attending regular appointments. You should be aware that weight loss with a gastric balloon will be less and slower than the surgical weight loss options.
Your weight loss surgeon will discuss the best weight loss option for your individual circumstances looking at your BMI and any health conditions you may have.
When deciding whether gastric balloon surgery is right for you, you may find it useful to see some gastric balloon before and after photographs and weight loss information on your surgeon’s past patients who chose gastric balloon treatment.
The gastric balloon pill capsule is a new type of gastric balloon. You swallow a capsule that is attached to a thin tube. When it is in position at the top of your stomach, the balloon is inflated using gas through the tube. The tube is then removed. No sedation is required. Up to 3 balloons can be placed in your stomach to continue to facilitate weight loss over the 12 week treatment. At the end of this period, the balloons are removed in a short endoscopic procedure
Gastric balloon is a popular weight loss option if you cannot lose a large amount of weight and keep it off by dieting, changing your behaviour and exercising alone; or if you have serious health problems caused by obesity.
Your bariatric surgeon will discuss with you the best option of weight loss and if you are eligible for gastric balloon insertion. They will look at your body mass index (BMI) and any health conditions you suffer from that are caused by your weight such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea, joint pain and depression. You will need to be committed to eating less, making healthy food choices and making appropriate lifestyle changes as recommended by your consultant.
What happens during the procedure?
A gastric balloon procedure takes just 15 minutes. It is performed in an outpatient setting under a mild sedative or light anaesthetic.
Your weight loss surgeon will insert a deflated gastric balloon through your mouth, down your oesophagus and into your stomach using a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera on one end, called an endoscope.
The balloon is then immediately filled with sterile saline through a small filling tube (catheter) that is attached to the balloon. After six months, the gastric balloon is deflated and removed endoscopically in the same way it was inserted.
There is a new type of gastric balloon called the gastric balloon pill capsule. It is simply swallowed and when it reaches the top of your stomach it is inflated using gas through a thin tube attached to the balloon. The gastric balloon pill capsule does not require sedation. It also need removing after six months.
Aftercare and recovery
You can go home the same day of your gastric balloon procedure and continue with your normal daily activities without any downtime.
After your gastric balloon insertion, you’ll have fluids only for a few days. You will then progress on to soft foods and then normal textured solid foods.
Your weight loss surgeon or a dietitian will discuss the dietary and exercise changes you need to make to reach and maintain your weight loss targets. It’s important that you ae committed to strictly following these recommendations.
When the gastric balloon is removed your stomach will return to its original size. It is important to continue with your newly learnt gastric balloon diet and lifestyle to maintain your weight loss.
You will need to attend regular follow up appointments including diet advice and planning.
Complications and side effects
You may experience some gastric balloon side effects such as gastric discomfort, nausea and vomiting, but they should only be short-term.
Possible complications from a gastric balloon procedure may include:
Getting prepared for your gastric balloon
Before you have your gastric balloon inserted your consultant will discuss with you a post-procedure diet. You may also receive advice on an exercise programme that will help you lose the weight.
How is the gastric balloon removed?
Your gastric balloon is deflated before being removed. It is then pulled through the mouth using an endoscopic tube. You will need to be aware that when the gastric balloon is removed, your stomach will return to its normal size and shape.
Will I gain weight once the balloon is removed?
Because the balloon has no lasting effects on the stomach, it is important that you create and maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. Without the gastric balloon taking up space in your stomach, you will be able to eat larger portions immediately once the balloon has gone. The success of the procedure is dependent on whether the recipient can carry on the same habits after the balloon is removed.