The gastric balloon is made of silicone and is placed in the stomach and inflated to act as a temporary method of aiding weight loss over a 6-month period.
Gastric balloon is placed into the stomach through the mouth with the help of a gastroscope that goes through the mouth and into the stomach. The balloon is then filled with 500-700 ml of fluid (saline) and a blue dye. The procedure is performed under sedation and takes 15-20 minutes.
The gastric balloon works mainly by reducing the capacity of the stomach for food, slows down the rate at which the stomach empties and provides a sensation of fullness after eating small meals.
You will qualify for this procedure if you are overweight (BMI of 27 kg/m2 or greater) or obese (BMI 30 kg/m2 or greater). Anyone who has had a previous gastric surgery (specifically surgery of the stomach and not any other abdominal operation) would be advised not to have a gastric balloon because of the small risk of stomach rupture. It is also not advised to have a gastric balloon if you have a very large hiatus hernia (a condition where a portion of the stomach slides up into the chest).
Most people would be able to go home few hours after the procedure, but will need someone to drive them home (you shouldn’t’t drive or be on your own without an adult companion for 24 hours after sedation). Should you need to stay in hospital overnight, you won’t be charged any extra fees.
The weight loss achievable with the gastric balloon varies considerably. On average, people lose 1.5-2 stones in weight, but clearly some would do better and some would lose less. It is expected that approximately 1-in-10 people may not achieve much weight loss at all by the end of the 6-month period; some might have lost a fair bit of weight initially but regained it back towards the end as the stomach has got used to the balloon). It is important therefore to consider the balloon as an aid to weight loss and to work consistently on your diet and exercise. Our dietitian and bariatric nurse will give you comprehensive advice and continued support.
At the end of the 6-month period, the balloon is removed under sedation with the aid of a gastroscope and as a day case procedure. The balloon is deflated by aspirating all the fluid from it and is then grasped and removed through the mouth. The same advice given above about not driving and having an adult companion for 24 hours after sedation applies.
It is essential that you continue the life style changes that you have adopted during that 6-month period if you were to hold on to the weight loss you achieved. It is worth noting that some 80% of people might regain weight within one year after the balloon has been removed.
- The initial 1-2 weeks, can be difficult, as the stomach will try to reject the balloon; therefore, it will be common to experience vomiting, retching, bloating and abdominal cramps. You will be given medications to “ease” these symptoms. Approximately 1-in-20 people (5%) would not tolerate the balloon and request its early removal. To help you overcome this early period, we advise that you adhere to liquid diet for 1-2 weeks. Our dietitian will provide you with further detailed advice on eating and drinking with the gastric balloon.
- In very rare instances the balloon could leak fluid prematurely. Should this occur, the blue dye will be absorbed through the intestine and will colour your urine green; you should report this to us, as the balloon will need to be removed fairly promptly to stop it travelling down the intestine and potentially cause a blockage although it is possible that a balloon that leaked fluid could actually travel down the intestine and come out the other end without harm. Having said that, we have actually not encountered any leakage from these balloons
- To reduce the risk of stomach ulcer, we prescribe anti-ulcer tablets and we write to your GP asking to continue these until the balloon is removed. The balloon is made of silicone material, which is inert and less irritant to the stomach.
- With any camera examination procedure (gastroscopy) there is a very small risk of perforation; however, we have not encountered this in the several hundred procedures we have performed to date.
- Stomach rupture is extremely rare unless someone has had previous gastric surgery. We therefore advise against the gastric balloon in such individuals.
It is rare that we might encounter a gastric ulcer at the initial gastroscopy (camera inspection of the stomach) and would therefore abandon the procedure as the balloon could cause bleeding or stomach perforation. Also, if we encounter a very large hiatus hernia, the procedure will be abandoned.