The gastric balloon is a relatively new and innovative weight loss device currently available to those suffering from obesity who have not seen improvement using more conservative weight loss methods such as diet to exercise. The balloon is simple in its function – a balloon is placed in the stomach and filled with sterile saline. The balloon takes up space in the stomach, forcing patients to eat less and consequently lose weight. While it does not have the weight loss potential of stapled procedures such as a gastric sleeve and gastric bypass, it does have the compelling benefit of not requiring surgery, as it is placed endoscopically.
How the Gastric Balloon Works
As mentioned above, the gastric balloon is a saline-filled ball that is placed in the stomach to take up room and help patients eat less. The balloon can vary in size based on the patient’s needs and anatomy. Using special endoscopic tools, Dr. Higa will place the uninflated building in the stomach and once appropriately placed, will fill the balloon with liquid. The tubing is removed and the balloon stays in place within the stomach.
The course of balloon placement is approximately six months as after this time, the acidic environment of the stomach will break down the skin of the balloon and potentially cause complications. However, during this time and for six months post-removal, patients will work with their surgeon and dietitian on a plan to improve their physical and emotional health through a helpful medical weight loss program. The goal, of course, is to change behavior so that when the balloon is removed, patients do not regain their weight.
The Benefits of the Gastric Balloon
- Of course, the biggest benefit of the gastric balloon is its nonsurgical nature. It offers greater weight loss than diet alone but does not come with many of the complications of a surgical procedure.
- The gastric balloon does not change any part of the anatomy and can be replaced with a new balloon after the six months is over.
- As a result of the comprehensive medical weight loss program that goes along with balloon placement, patients often maintain a significant amount of their weight loss longer-term.
Risks and Considerations of the Gastric Balloon
- While the risks of a balloon are very low and typically are limited to the inherent risk of an endoscopic procedure, there’s also the possibility of blockage of the intestine if the balloon fails and deflates before its removal at our office.
- Patients to undergo aggressive procedures will not lose as much excess body weight as patients who opt for a surgical weight loss management program like the gastric sleeve or gastric bypass.
- Since there’s no change to the anatomy, patients do not enjoy the hormonal and malabsorptive benefits of other procedures. As a result, when the balloon is removed, there is a significantly greater risk of returning to former habits.
- The gastric balloon is not covered by insurance and therefore patients will be required to pay for it out of pocket.
To learn more about the gastric balloon, and if it is right for you, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Higa after watching our online bariatric seminar. After speaking to Dr. Higa, you will better understand your options and which weight loss procedure is optimal for your situation.