What is a gastric balloon?
An intragastric balloon is a worldwide known method of treating obesity, which helped thousands of patients lose weight. In our clinic we have been performing this bariatric procedure for years.
It must be reminded that an intragastric balloon is only complementary to standard methods of losing weight, such as healthy diet and an active lifestyle.
Unfortunately, not always can we adhere to these guidelines, and that is when we can help ourselves with a gastric balloon.
The balloon is inserted into the stomach with the aid of an endoscope and then filled with a sterile saline and methylene blue dye solution. The balloon fills the stomach to give the patient an enduring feeling of satiety, which reduces appetite and the size of consumed portions.
Indications for intragastric balloon – who is the best candidate?
The main indication is obesity in patients, who did not succeed in losing weight on diet and exercise alone. When the BMI exceeds 30kg/m2 it is recommended to consider implanting a gastric balloon. It will not, however, substitute for rational diet and eating smaller meals.
The balloon should be only implanted if the patient does not have severe medical conditions or addictions. The doctor will thoroughly analyse the patient’s medical history to determine if his/her illness exclude them from having this procedure.
Before the procedure in our clinic Sonomed, the patient has an opportunity to consult with a gastroenterologist, psychologist and a dietician. The implantation of the balloon is performed under sedation. During the examination, the patient is under supervision of a specialist anaesthesiologist, who administers intravenous pain medication and sedatives, so that the patient does not experience the gastroscopic examination and the moment of introducing the balloon to the stomach. The first part of the procedure is a gastroduodenoscopy, which is an examination of the esophagus , stomach and duodenum to ensure there are no medical conditions excluding the patient from having the balloon implanted. After the examination the actual implanting of the balloon is done. The deflated balloon is inserted through the mouth, placed in the stomach and filled with a sterile saline solution dyed blue. The whole procedure lasts approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Afterwards, the patient remains in our care, so that the doctor and a nurse can minimize the discomfort from having a foreign body in the stomach.
After the procedure
The first days after the procedure are the most difficult, as our digestive system is not used to constantly having such a foreign body, which results in a defensive reaction in form of nausea, abdominal pains and cramps, vomiting, regurgitation and discomfort. It usually lasts up to a few days. These symptoms are observed in practically every patient. We try to minimize them by giving pain, antispasmodic and antiemetic medication. Their severity and duration vary and depend on the adaptive capabilities of the stomach. This is why it is important that the patient has a possibility to rest from work during the couple of days following the procedure. The duration of the patient’s stay in the clinic depends on his condition and willingness at the ward, but even after he is discharged home, the patient remains under constant medical care. He may contact the doctor at all times and, in case alarming symptoms occur, the patient can be admitted to Sonomed clinic immediately.
The safety of the patient is of highest priority. The intragastric balloon is a treatment method which, as any other, has some complications. Dangerous complications are extremely rare – around 2 to 1000. The patient is under comprehensive care to ensure highest safety.
After implanting the balloon the biggest risk is dehydration caused by vomiting, which can lead to electrolyte imbalance. If the patient suffers from severe vomiting, he can contact the doctor at any time.
The effectiveness of intragastric balloon
The balloon is effective, but as with other methods of losing weight, weight loss is not guaranteed. This is so because the effectiveness of the whole procedure depends not only on the balloon itself. Some patients loose up to 30 kilograms, some around 15 and the rest next to nothing. The balloon is only supposed to help in dieting by giving the patient a feeling of satiety. It will not substitute for healthy diet and active lifestyle. If we keep on eating large calorie dense meals, the procedure will yield no results, as the stomach adapts to large portions by expanding.
How is the balloon removed?
The intragastric balloon is removed after about 6 months and the process looks similarly to implanting the balloon. It is important that the patient follows a liquid diet during the last two days before the procedure. On the day before the procedure the patient should only drink water, so that the stomach remains empty during the examination. The balloon is punctured with an appropriate needle, drained and then removed using special forceps. The procedure is safe and takes around 20 minutes, provided it is performed by an experienced doctor.
Recommendations after removal of the balloon
Contrary to bariatric surgeries, this is a method that does not change the anatomy of the stomach, therefore it is crucial to follow rational diet guidelines and exercise regularly to ensure long-term success . The satisfaction from results achieved with the help of a gastric balloon should be a great motivation to maintain positive changes to the diet and a healthy lifestyle.