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Gastric balloon

The procedure to fit a gastric balloon is the least invasive of all types of weight loss surgery. It involves endoscopy, no incisions and can help you if you are overweight rather than obese. Mr Alhamdani recommends a balloon if you have a BMI of over 30 and need to lose a few kilograms in weight, or if you want to reduce your BMI (if it is greater than 60) before having more extensive bariatric surgery.

What is a gastric balloon?

The device is a balloon, made from material that is safe to have inside the stomach. The uninflated balloon is introduced through your mouth and throat using an endoscope and is positioned inside the stomach before being filled with sterile saline.

The procedure takes less than an hour and you are sedated, not anaesthetised. You may experience some discomfort but the sedative means that you remember very little afterwards. You stay in hospital for 24 hours after the procedure to make sure that you can tolerate the balloon and to allow time for the sedative to wear off.

How does a gastric balloon aid weight loss?

The fluid-filled balloon takes up much of the space inside the stomach. You may notice that you feel full, as if you had just eaten, even if you have not had any food for several hours. During the first few days some people experience nausea, retching and vomiting, but this usually wears off.

Once your digestive system has settled, you can eat normally but we advise you to think about the type of food you are eating. You will only be able to eat small amounts before feeling full, but it is still important to eat foods that give you good, well balanced nutrition. Your calorie intake will be reduced, and you should notice a gradual weight loss over the next few weeks and months. If you combine your new eating habits with taking more exercise, the more likely you are to lose weight.

Problems and complications

The most common problems that occur after having a gastric balloon fitted are:

  • The nausea and vomiting persist for longer than a few days. If you do experience problems, contact Mr Alhamdani for a follow up consultation. Some patients are unable to tolerate the balloon, but it is impossible to predict this beforehand. The balloon is easily removed in these cases, and this will be done as quickly as possible.
  • Failure to lose weight or weight loss plateau. This is usually due to food choices and we can help you devise an eating plan that will reduce your energy intake and help you stay healthy. It is possible to eat small volumes of high fat foods even with a gastric balloon in place; you need to eat sensibly if you are to reach your weight loss objectives.
  • Balloon rupture. Mr Alhamdani stresses that this is a very rare complication. If it happens, the water in the balloon will be absorbed by the body and then excreted in the urine. You will then notice that your urine becomes blue. This is due to the methylene blue dye that is mixed with the water in the balloon. Please contact Mr Alhamdani urgently if this happens as he will need to remove the ruptured balloon.

How long can a gastric balloon remain in place?

Mr Alhamdani recommends that you should only have a gastric balloon for six months. That should be long enough for you to achieve a significant weight loss without harming your stomach lining.

At the end of this time, you will have another endoscopy to remove the balloon. During the procedure Mr Alhamdani will check your stomach visually, to ensure that everything looks healthy and normal.

What happens then?

You can choose to continue your weight loss through diet and exercise alone. Many patients find that losing weight with a balloon motivates them to maintain their new healthy weight.

If you had a balloon fitted to reduce your BMI, you will need further assessment to find out if you are suitable and well enough for a more extensive bariatric procedure.

Am I suitable for a gastric balloon?

Gastric balloons are becoming more popular; they are easy to fit and remove, then tend to have few complications and they have no long-lasting impact on your body.

As part of the multi-disciplinary team approach you will see a specialist bariatric dietician (Mrs Lucy Jones) or a specialist nurse practitioner (Mrs Toni Jenkins) during your stay in hospital who will talk to you about your diet and how to lose weight with the balloon.

The best way to find out if this method of assisted weight loss would suit you is to arrange an initial consultation with Mr Alhamdani. After taking a complete history, calculating your BMI and discussing your weight loss objectives, he will be able to recommend the most suitable course of treatment for you as an individual.

References:

American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery

The Whittington NHS Hospital

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