Guide to The Gastric Balloon

Bariatric surgery is not a small decision. It’s an expensive procedure with a lengthy recovery time, lots of preparation, and a strict post-op diet that must be followed. Moreover, it’s not going to be for everyone.

However, there are temporary, reversible options for weight loss surgery that have been developed over the years. Gastric band surgery is one popular one, but that’s still a surgical procedure. One non-surgical, short-term option remains: the gastric balloon. But what is it, and can it give the results you’re hoping for?

What Is The Gastric Balloon?

Gastric balloon surgery is, in fact, not surgery at all. The gastric balloon procedure is a non-surgical weight loss solution that works similarly to surgeries that restrict food intake. There are several different brands of gastric balloons, but they’re all similar.

Common gastric balloon brands include ReShape, Obalon, and Orbera. They all work slightly differently. Some have multiple balloons. Others have balloons that are meant to be inflated at different periods.

What connects them all is this: Gastric balloon procedures are nonsurgical, outpatient, temporary, and reversible.

The idea of the gastric balloon is to restrict possible food intake to curb behaviors associated with overeating. It’s recommended for patients with a BMI of between 27 and 35; that is, overweight to obese (not morbidly so). Many patients who choose the gastric balloon are not in such a dire situation that they would choose bariatric surgery.

How Does The Gastric Balloon Work?

During the procedure, the doctor uses an endoscope to insert a small capsule attached to a catheter into the stomach. The balloon is filled with sterile saline. This balloon takes up about ⅓ of the stomach’s volume and is meant to make the patient feel full while also preventing the intake of too much food.

The gastric balloon is temporary. It’s typically removed after six months, deflated and taken out using an endoscope.

The procedure is an outpatient procedure that takes only 15 minutes to an hour. The patient goes home after the procedure without any sort of lengthy recovery time. The vast majority of patients can return to normal activities immediately; however, those who face complications may want to take up to a week off after the procedure.

Side Effects of Gastric Balloon

Side effects are generally mild symptoms like abdominal pain, heaviness in the abdomen, and nausea. These side effects go away after a short time and are generally not experienced for the entirety of your time with the gastric balloon.

More severe side effects may occur, such as acid reflux or injury during the procedure. If you experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor.

Gastric Balloon Results

A clinical trial done with the Orbera balloon showed that patients lost 22 pounds on average, with the more obese patients losing much more weight, and these patients were able to keep the weight off after the balloon was removed.

These results are not quite as drastic as results from bariatric surgery. However, it’s a much less expensive, temporary, reversible, and non-surgical option for people who don’t have nearly as much weight to lose.