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An alternative to surgery, strict diets, and weight-loss pills.
An intragastric balloon (or bariatric balloon) is a weight-loss device procedure in which a saline-filled silicone stomach balloon or gas-filled swallowable balloon is temporarily placed in the stomach. The goal of this procedure is to assist in the weight loss process by making a person feel fuller faster and limiting the amount of food that can be consumed.
Combined with a 12-month weight loss program and lifestyle changes, the gastric balloon is designed to kick-start weight loss. A gastric balloon is an ideal solution for those looking to lose excess weight, but who don’t want to undergo permanent surgical solutions.
An intragastric balloon is not a permanent weight loss solution, but an assistive device for those who have unsuccessfully tried to lose weight with diet and exercise and other lifestyle changes. A commitment to healthy lifestyle changes, behavior therapy and regular medical follow-ups is essential.
Indications for a gastric balloon
Weight loss balloons may be indicated for patients who:
- Are moderately overweight and unable to achieve a desired weight loss goal through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes alone
- Wish to lose a minimum of 20 to 40 pounds and are ineligible for or uncomfortable with other weight loss surgeries
- Have a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 40
- Are willing to participate in a medically supervised diet with behavior modification and regular follow-up
This may not be suitable for the following patients:
Gastric balloons are not suitable for all patients, including those with these conditions:
- Prior abdominal surgery
- An unwillingness to adhere to diet, exercise and behavior modification therapy
- Hiatal hernia greater than five centimeters
- Blood coagulation disorder
- Potential bleeding lesion of the upper GI tract
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Crohn’s disease
- Uncontrolled psychiatric disorder(s), especially eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, compulsive overeating and high liquid calorie intake habits
- Severe liver disease
- Conditions requiring medications on specified hourly intervals, such as anti-seizure or anti-arrhythmic medications
- Pregnant or trying to become pregnant
Types of Gastric Balloons
The FDA has approved two types of gastric balloons, using either one, two or three balloons. The single balloon system is done under light anesthesia. At Advanced Laparoscopic Associates, we use the Orbera® system, which requires only a single balloon. The process takes only about 20 minutes.
How does the stomach balloon work?
Gastric balloon surgery is an outpatient procedure done endoscopically. After sedation, a catheter (thin tube) containing the balloon is threaded down the throat and into the stomach. This endoscope has an extremely small, lighted camera to help the surgeon ensure correct placement.
Once in place, the balloon is inflated using a sterile saline solution and the endoscope is removed. The balloon must be removed after six months. The procedure only takes about a half hour and patients may go home the same day.
Research has shown that intragastric balloons are generally safe and show significant short-term weight loss. A total body weight loss of about 8 to 15 percent is expected in the six months after gastric balloon insertion. Behavioral therapy in conjunction with endoscopic bariatric therapy is necessary for optimal weight loss.
If the recommended lifestyle changes are not followed, weight loss may not occur. Worse, weight gain may occur if permanent diet and physical activity changes are not implemented.
The intragastric balloon also holds great promise in improving conditions related to obesity. With significant weight loss, other related conditions often improve, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- Heart disease
- Type II diabetes
Long-term benefits of gastric balloons for obese and morbidly obese patients, as well as long-term device safety, requires more research and time at this point.
Though serious risks are rare with a gastric balloon procedure, there are always risks associated with any surgery. Deflation of the balloon and its possible movement through the digestive system causing a blockage of the intestines is one serious risk. Ulcers or a perforation (hole) in the stomach are also risks and may require further surgery.
Recovery from the procedure
There are very few side effects associated with the gastric balloon. Pain, nausea and vomiting are common in about a third of patients, but these symptoms last only a few days and may respond to medication. With the single balloon surgery, patients can expect to go back to work after about three days.
Life after gastric balloon
The intragastric balloon is designed to simulate the feeling of fullness, with the idea that the patient will then eat less. About six hours after the procedure, small amounts of liquid are permitted. An all-liquid diet is continued for a week, and soft foods may be added starting in the second week after surgery.
Gastric balloon placement requires regular follow-up visits to monitor progress. The patient’s commitment to lifestyle changes is also required for the success of this procedure. Behavior modification may include:
- Becoming more physically active
- Seeing a registered dietician
- Keeping a food diary
- Eating small portions of healthy foods
- Participating in an intensive lifestyle therapy program
If you are interested in learning more about gastric balloon placement, please contact us to set up an appointment.
For additional information, all prospective patients are invited to attend a free educational seminar.
Seminars are a great source of information about the procedure you are considering, and they allow you to meet the surgeons as well as ask any questions you may have. You may also have the opportunity to meet some post-operative patients.