Any procedure carries potential risks and complications. In deciding whether or not to have surgery, it is important that you are aware of what can go wrong. This helps ensure that you are making a fully informed decision. On this page, you will find the main gastric balloon risks and complications. Your surgeon will talk you about these in more detail during your consultation.
. Abdominal pain and cramps
In the first 48 hours the gastric balloon can irritate the muscle of the stomach wall causing griping pains. This usually settles over the first few days and a liquid diet can help minimize these symptoms. If you experience fullness, bloating or retching, you should try to lie on your left side and massage your abdomen upwards under your ribs. This can help move your gastric balloon into a better position. You can be given medication for pain and cramp if it is severe.
. Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting occur in 95% of those receiving a gastric balloon and can last for 2 – 3 days. This may be severe enough to cause dehydration. For that reason some clinicians believe a short inpatient stay of up to 48 hours after the gastric balloon insertion to ensure that all the early symptoms from the gastric balloon are under control, whilst other clinicians do not. Your supervising clinician will discuss this with you. An inpatient stay would involve receiving intravenous fluids and medication for nausea and vomiting until the vomiting stops.
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. Vomiting and indigestion
Once you have had the balloon fitted, you will be unable to eat as much as you did previously. This happens as the stomach no longer has as much space inside. Your surgeon will provide details about what to eat after surgery. However, it may take some time to get used to the new diet. As a result, you may find that you eat more than your stomach can tolerate. This can lead to vomiting and feelings of indigestion. Your surgeon may be able to provide anti-reflux medications to help with any indigestion or reflux.
. Balloon rupture
A salt-water solution inflates the balloon until it reaches the right size. In rare cases, the balloon may have too much water inside, or the pressure to great. As a result, the balloon can rupture whilst it is in the stomach. Complications such as this are very rare. Afterwards, the balloon passes through the bowel and is expelled naturally. Please contact your surgeon if you notice increasing pain or feel as though the balloon has burst.
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. Injury during balloon insertion or removal
The surgeon uses a long tube with a camera attached to insert the balloon. The tube travels through the mouth, down the food pipe and into the stomach. To remove the balloon, the tube travels down into the stomach once more and deflates the balloon. The tube removes the balloon via the food pipe and mouth. In some cases, this process can cause damage to the mouth or food pipe. This may lead to bleeding, pain or discomfort.
Infection is a risk that can occur with any procedure. Using sterile equipment helps reduce the risk of infection. However, it can still occur. Signs of infection include:
. A fever
. Pain uncontrolled by painkillers
. Sore throat
A temporary sore throat from the endoscopy and balloon insertion procedure should wear off in 24 hours.
. Failure to tolerate / vomiting / premature removal (uncommon)
Less than 3 in 100 patients require removal of their gastric balloon if symptoms above cannot be tolerated or they are unable to keep fluids down which does not settle.
. Bad breath (uncommon)
Food can coat the balloon causing bad breath or smelly burps. Drinking clear fluids or sucking on ice cubes can help clear digesting food off the balloon and get rid of bad breath odor.
. Bleeding (very rare)
Bleeding during endoscopy and insertion of the balloon is very rare and affects less than 1 in 10,000 patients.
. Airway and breathing complications (very rare)
Endoscopy with sedation has a small risk of slowing breathing down so that oxygen levels are too low. All patients receive oxygen during the procedure and are closely monitored to prevent this.
. Bowel obstruction or perforation (rare)
This occurs in less than 1 in 200 gastric balloon placements. If the gastric balloon does deflate it may slip into the lower stomach or bowel and cause obstruction. This will give serious symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, vomiting and progressive bloating. These symptoms mean that you should seek immediate medical attention for removal of your gastric balloon.
An emergency operation is very rarely needed. This is required if the gastric balloon makes a hole in the bowel or blocks the bowel.
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