13 November, 2023

Gastric Balloon Pros and Cons

Trying to lose weight through traditional channels (a low-calorie diet & increased exercise), but not seeing any noteworthy progress can be disappointing and frustrating. Often, individuals have underlying issues that are not within their control which blocks their weight loss efforts. These can be related to genetics, hormone imbalances, medical conditions, metabolic issues, medications, etc.

Sometimes, all these individuals need is a little help to circumvent these inhibitors to weight loss. Today this might mean a non-surgical weight loss procedure or prescription medication or even a combination of both. A gastric balloon is one of these types of procedures and has proven effective in helping patients lose weight without surgery.

Today we are going to talk about the pros and cons of a gastric balloon procedure and provide an overview of how they can help a patient lose weight. This may help you determine if a gastric balloon would be the right choice to help jumpstart your weight loss journey.

What Is A Gastric Balloon And How Does It Promote Weight Loss?

A gastric balloon, such as the Orbera Intragastric balloon is a medical device that is made of soft silicone. It is placed in a patient’s stomach through an endoscopic procedure and then inflated with a solution of sterile saline.

Once inflated, the balloon takes up about ⅔ of the stomach’s capacity, restricting the number of calories the patient can consume during one meal. The smaller stomach size also slows the process of gastric emptying (food stays in the stomach longer) helping the patient to stay feeling full longer.

Following is a list of the pros and cons of a gastric balloon that may help you determine if this procedure may be a good option to assist you with losing weight.

Gastric Balloon Pros

Gastric balloon pros

Gastric Balloons Do Not Require Surgery

The patient is mildly sedated during the procedure and the gastric balloon is introduced into the patient’s stomach through an endoscope. An endoscope is a special flexible instrument that resembles a thin hollow tube with a built-in camera. Using the camera as a guide, the doctor places the deflated balloon in the target location and then fills it up to about the size of a grapefruit. The entire procedure takes less than 30 minutes without incisions or the risks associated with a surgical procedure or the use of general anesthesia.

A Gastric Balloon Is Not Permanent

A gastric balloon is used as part of a comprehensive weight loss program that runs for 12 months. The gastric balloon itself only remains in the patient’s stomach for six months and then it is removed. During the six months that the balloon resides in the patient’s stomach, they are provided the highest level of support and learn how to control their portion sizes, engage in more physical activity, and begin to make healthier lifestyle choices that become lifelong habits.

During these six months, if any adverse side effects arise while using the balloon, it can be quickly removed. A gastric balloon is only a temporary tool that is used to help patients lose weight while bariatric surgery makes permanent changes to a patient’s digestive system and removes a portion of their stomach.

A Gastric Balloon Generally Costs Less Than Surgery

Bariatric gastric sleeve surgery costs anywhere between $14,000 23,000 in the United States – this is just the base cost and does not include many other associated fees. While a gastric balloon procedure normally ranges between $6,000 and $9,000.

Also, after undergoing bariatric surgery, many patients must purchase supplements that they are required to take so they do not experience malnutrition. They must buy these supplements and take them every day for the rest of their lives.

Another pro of a gastric balloon is that patients are fully supported by a team of professionals for an entire year. They receive dietary counseling, nutritional education, guidance with exercise programs, and more.

Most Patients Meet The Qualifications For A Gastric Balloon

Qualifying for bariatric surgery can be quite challenging, especially if you are relying on health insurance to cover the cost of your procedure. The bariatric surgeon will have qualifications that patients must meet and health insurance companies have their own as well.

The basic qualifications a patient must meet to undergo bariatric surgery is a BMI (body mass index) of 40+ or 35+ and at least one weight-related condition such as type 2 diabetes. Health insurance companies normally also require proof that the patient has tried to lose weight through some supervised program and failed.

One of the dilemmas of qualifying for bariatric surgery is that a patient’s weight problems must be in an advanced stage before they qualify to get help. If the patient desires to act before they become worse, they do not qualify. Gastric balloon procedures are appropriate for patients who have lower BMI levels so this offers them the chance to circumvent further decline.

A gastric balloon procedure can be used to help patients who need bariatric surgery but due to their weight, are in poor health. The patient can lose an initial amount of weight so they can safely undergo surgery.

A Weight Loss Balloon Offers An Alternative to Surgery That Is Safe And Effective

Clinical trials have proven that patients can lose 3 times the amount of weight with the assistance of a gastric balloon vs diet and exercise alone.

During the first 3 months of the gastric balloon program, patients lose a significant amount of weight.

The average weight loss for most patients in the first 6 months is between 25 and 50 pounds. While the balloon is in place in the patient’s stomach, patients receive comprehensive support that stresses the importance of nutrition, portion control, stress management, and daily exercise. This teaches patients new behaviors that become lifelong habits and can stop the merry-go-round cycle of weight gain and weight loss.

You will notice when reading over this list of gastric balloon surgery pros and cons that the list of pros outweighs the cons.

Gastric Balloon Cons

Lower Percentage Of Average Weight Loss

Compared to bariatric surgery, patients who use the gastric balloon for weight loss typically do not lose as much weight as fast. This being said, there are a few things to keep in mind when comparing the weight loss potential of bariatric surgery vs the gastric balloon.

  1. Bariatric surgery requires a longer and more involved recovery time and patients are not able to eat solid foods and adhere to a liquid diet for a much longer time. This may be a key factor in why bariatric surgery patients lose weight faster;
  2. Regardless of which form of weight loss assistance is chosen, the largest contributor to the amount of weight that is lost is patient compliance and dedication to the program;
  3. Many patients have lost over 100 pounds using the Orbera gastric balloon.
    Reaching your weight loss goal may take longer

The most significant weight loss normally takes place during the first three to six months after having a gastric balloon procedure. Weight loss can slow down a bit from there and may require changes in diet or physical activity to promote additional loss.

Remaining plugged into the support systems provided can help patients address any plateaus so they can continue to succeed in reaching their weight loss goals.

Weight Regain After Balloon Extraction

Once the gastric balloon is removed, the “forced” portion control will be eliminated and it will take new behaviors and ongoing healthy lifestyle choices for patients to continue to lose weight or maintain that weight loss. If the individual fails to follow the same dietary guidelines once the balloon is removed, they may gradually regain their lost weight.

Gastric Balloon Side Effects

Most patients who experience side effects after having a gastric balloon placed, only have them temporarily. Some patients have reported chronic side effects that are non-responsive to medications and can lead to the early removal of the balloon. These side effects may include:

  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Acid reflux.

Some of the most common gastric balloon side effects are pain or discomfort in the stomach, nausea, vomiting, bad breath, burping, excess gasses, and others. Patients may also experience psychological discomfort because of having a foreign object inside the body.

The percentage of people who have long-term side effects after placing the gastric balloon is about 5%. As one of the latest meta-analyses revealed, most of the symptoms were mild and only 4.2% of patients had to remove the balloon earlier.

There are potential side effects after gastric balloon removal but they are rare. Patients taking out the balloon before the due date might develop some issues with the lungs, esophagus, and gastroesophageal junction. The removal process can lead to pneumonitis, aspiration pneumonia, tears, or perforation in the esophageal inside of the body.

Although these risks are unlikely to happen, it is important to ensure that the procedure is done by the right medical professional. Dr. Okeefe Simmons always strived for excellence and have gained years of experience in performing gastric balloon procedure. He knows how to do it best and minimize the potential risks while delivering the weight loss results patients dream of.

Some Foods Must Be Avoided Post-Op

After having bariatric surgery, patients must avoid certain foods and beverages, and the same holds for a gastric balloon. Foods such as pasta tend to stick to the surface of the balloon and cause unpleasant side effects for the patient. The upside of this is that this situation is only temporary and will not be an issue after the removal of the balloon.

After looking over the pros and cons of a gastric balloon, if you would like to learn more, or find out if you may be a good candidate for the Orbera gastric balloon, contact Simmons Advanced Weight Loss Solutions.

The experts at Simmons Advanced Weight Loss Solutions are expertly trained in treating obesity without surgery. We would love to meet with you and discuss your weight loss goals and create a personalized plan to help you reach them. Set up your appointment today!

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