What is a gastric balloon?
A gastric balloon, also known as an intragastric balloon, is a short-term non-surgical weight loss tool.
It is a soft silicon balloon that is temporarily inserted into your stomach to partially fill it so that you feel full quicker after small amounts of food. It reduces your hunger allowing you to control your portion sizes and can be used as a stepping stone on the path to weight loss success. It offers a weight loss solution to help patients to kick start their lifestyle changes. By using dietary advice you can learn healthy eating habits and change your lifestyle so that you can lose weight quickly and keep the pounds off long-term. Sometimes it is used when the patient’s BMI is not high enough to justify surgery.
How does a gastric balloon work?
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.
The benefits of a gastric balloon
One major benefit of the gastric balloon is the avoidance of invasive surgery and the risks associated with surgery. As it only takes 15 minutes under a mild sedative you can go home the same day. This in turn means that a gastric balloon is less expensive than many surgical options. It is only temporary, offering support whilst you start to lose weight and become more active.
Patients with gastric balloons typically experience around 20 and 30% weight loss. However, the amount of weight lost by each patient will vary depending on individual circumstances.
How much does a gastric balloon cost?
The typical cost of gastric balloon surgery is between £2,000 and £5,000 in the UK. At Ramsay Health Care UK, a gastric balloon package is from a guide price of £4,349. The cost of a gastric balloon at Ramsay includes: 6 months aftercare that comprises of appointments with bariatric nurse and dietician. Payment plans are available to fund your treatment.
Is a gastric balloon right for me?
A gastric balloon is recommended for patients who:
- Need to lose weight before an operation, including weight loss surgery, to reduce their surgical risk.
- Want a non-surgical treatment option for weight loss.
- 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 a serious health problems caused by obesity
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 that are caused by your weight such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea, joint pain and depression.
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.
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. The procedure may be uncomfortable, but is generally painless.
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.
Aftercare is included within your treatment price and you will have access to a range of specialists and information to help you with your aftercare and support.
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.
Most people don't experience any complications at all but you should be aware of the risks. Possible complications from a gastric balloon procedure may include:
- Gastric discomfort is common for the first few days of placement but rarely continue in the longer term.
- Feeling imbalanced, similar to sea sickness.
- Heavy feeling in your abdomen.
- Abdominal or back pain.
- Acid reflux or indigestion.
- Balloon leakage or rupture. This is rare and the balloon is usually expelled naturally.
- Injury during insertion or removal of the balloon.
Your weight loss surgeon will discuss these in detail with you before you decide to have a gastric balloon inserted.
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.