21 February, 2024

Orbera Gastric Balloon FAQs

There has been a lot of talk these days about gastric balloons and how they work to help individuals lose weight. Many people have found great success using the Orbera gastric balloon and have dropped 50 or even 100 pounds in six months to a year.

All the buzz surrounding this quick non-surgical procedure has generated a lot of interest and we have been getting a lot of questions. Patients have asked what it feels like to have a gastric balloon in their stomach if there will be things they can not eat after having a balloon procedure, and more great questions. We thought we would dedicate today’s post to answering some of the questions we have been asked about the endoscopic Orbera gastric balloon procedure.

What Is An Endoscopic Procedure?

An endoscopic procedure is performed using a special hollow tube-like tool called an endoscope that is gently placed down a patient’s throat. The endoscope is equipped with a camera and a light and provides a “real-time” video feed to a monitor that is located next to the specialist performing the procedure.

The endoscope will also allow access to other tools that are necessary to perform a procedure. Before the endoscope is inserted into the throat, the patient is put under mild sedation so they will not experience any discomfort.

The risks associated with an endoscopic procedure are very low (less than 1%) and recovery is much quicker than that of a surgical procedure. Procedures such as the Orbera gastric balloon and endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty are performed using an endoscope and do not require any incisions.

Who Can Benefit From The Orbera Gastric Balloon?

The Orbera gastric balloon is designed to help individuals lose weight and is one of the only non-surgical weight loss tools that is available to patients with a BMI as low as 28 -30.

It is often used as an interim weight loss solution for patients who have a high BMI and do not qualify for surgery due to health concerns. They use the Orbera balloon to lose some initial weight and improve the patient’s health so they can undergo bariatric surgery.

Who is not a good candidate for a gastric balloon

You would not be a good candidate for a gastric balloon if:

  • You have had a former gastrointestinal procedure such as the removal of esophageal cancer, a cholecystectomy, or an appendectomy;
  • You are not willing to adhere to and participate in the strict program that accompanies the Orbera balloon procedure;
  • You are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant shortly;
  • You have chronic stomach issues such as ulcers.

How Is The Orbera Balloon Placement Procedure Performed?

The Orbera balloon is introduced to the patient’s stomach through an endoscopic procedure while they are mildly sedated. The first thing the specialist will do once the endoscope is in place will be to do a thorough inspection of the stomach and esophagus to ensure there are no abnormalities that will become issues.

If everything looks good, a deflated Orbera balloon will be lowered down the endoscope into the patient’s stomach and placed in the target location. Next, the balloon will be filled with sterile saline solution and sealed.

The entire procedure takes less than 30 minutes and the patient remains for a few hours for observation and then is released to go home to recover. The patient will be groggy from the sedation and will not be able to drive so they will need a family member or friend to drive them home.

What Does It Feel Like To Have A Gastric Balloon In Your Stomach?

Some patients have reported that they can feel the gastric balloon in their stomach when they gently press down in certain spots.

When patients were asked “What does it feel like to have a gastric balloon”?, some said they felt very full as if they had eaten a huge meal. Others said they could sometimes feel the balloon moving around inside their stomachs. If you can feel the gastric balloon moving around in your stomach, it is normal because the balloon is loose and free flowing and it is nothing to be concerned about.

Sometimes the balloon may move in the stomach and settle in a spot that causes cramping and discomfort to the patient. This is known as balloon migration and can often be remedied by the patient by sleeping on the left side which can help the balloon move back into the correct position.

How Long Will It Take To Recover After The Orbera Balloon Placement?

It is advisable to plan about three to four days of inactivity to allow your stomach time to adjust to the foreign object that it was just gifted with. Most patients can resume their normal activities within a week but it takes others a bit longer. Your recovery time will depend on how quickly your stomach adjusts to the balloon.

Will I Need To Take Time Off Work After Getting An Orbera Balloon?

It is recommended that you take some time off of work following having a balloon placed. Some patients experience nausea and vomiting for a few days after having the procedure, others feel tired the first day and then are fine, and some need a bit longer to recover.

In general, taking 4-5 days off of work is usually sufficient unless you experience complications or have a very labor-intensive job.

Is There Anything I Can’t Eat With An Orbera Balloon?

Immediately after having the Orbera balloon placed in your stomach, a special diet must be followed while your stomach becomes used to the device. You will receive detailed dietary instructions from your doctor based on your unique circumstances.

Once your stomach becomes accustomed to the balloon, you should be able to eat most foods without a problem. There will be a few exceptions but the balloon is only in the stomach for 6 months so it is only a temporary issue.

Foods that are sticky such as pasta, can become stuck on the balloon and promote nausea and vomiting. Spicy foods, rich or foods filled with fat that do not significantly break down (i.e.red meat/steak, fibrous vegetables) can also cause unpleasant symptoms. Preparing your foods properly (i.e. cooking vegetables till they are soft), eating slowly, and avoiding some foods will help mitigate unpleasant symptoms.

What Are The ‘Golden Rules’ For A Gastric Balloon?

Medical professionals often refer to the guidelines for eating after a weight loss procedure as the “Golden Rules”. These guidelines were compiled to help your procedure yield the results you desire and to also help you avoid experiencing unpleasant side effects.

The “Golden Rules” of a gastric balloon procedure are as follows:

Consume Small Portions

Perception often becomes our reality and it is interesting how small changes can significantly affect our brains. Using a small “child-size” plate instead of a dinner-size plate tricks your brain into feeling more satisfied with the smaller amount of food you are eating.

Portion Control
  • Use a small plate and only serve yourself a portion the size of the palm of your hand;
  • Drink from a small cup;
  • Portion out your meal on your plate and put the rest away before you sit down to eat. Do not leave it out where it is easily accessible;
  • Change your “clean your plate” mindset. If you are full, it is ok to leave food on your plate.

Eat Slowly And Mindfully

Mindful Eating
  • It should take you at least 20 minutes to eat your meal. Chewing your food thoroughly will help you avoid some unpleasant symptoms;
  • Do not drink too fast. Sip your beverage or you will feel uncomfortable and bloated;
  • After you finish what is on your plate, if you are still hungry, then wait thirty minutes before you eat any more. The signals between the stomach and the brain do not connect immediately so it is easy to overeat unintentionally. Eating too much will inhibit weight loss efforts and can also bring on unwanted cramping, reflux, or nausea.

Mindful eating is a newer concept that means paying more attention to eating during mealtime and less attention to other things. In the 1950s, the tv tray table was invented so people could sit in front of their televisions and eat.

It was discovered during some studies that when watching TV, people do not pay attention to what they are eating or how much they are eating. It also trains our minds to think that we need to eat every time we watch TV and this becomes a bad habit.

Sitting at the table to eat meals and concentrating on eating helps to promote weight loss and teaches patients how to properly portion their meals.

Other FAQs About Orbera

Can I Drink Alcohol With A Gastric Balloon?

Yes, you can drink alcohol in moderation. It is important to keep in mind that you need to stay within your daily caloric budget and that liquid calories can add up fast without providing any nutritional value.

Will The Orbera Gastric Balloon Limit My Activities?

When the balloon is first placed, you should avoid any strenuous activities to give your body time to adjust. Once you are feeling up to it, you may resume most of your normal activities unless they include scuba diving, bungee jumping, or sky diving as you can not participate in these activities if you have a gastric balloon.

Can I Exercise With The Orbera Balloon?

Yes, and exercise should be included in your schedule every day. Walking is an excellent source of exercise and does not require any special equipment. You can go at your own pace, and increase the length and frequency of your walks as you build up stamina.

The professionals at your weight loss center can provide you with specific recommendations for beginning an exercise routine.

How Does The Orbera Gastric Balloon Work?

The Orbera balloon takes up a considerable amount of space in the patient’s stomach which limits the amount of food they can consume at one time. The balloon also provides the feeling of “fullness” because it slows down the passage of food through the stomach and patients feel satisfied longer.

How Long Does The Orbera Gastric Balloon Remain In My Stomach?

The Orbera balloon only stays in the stomach for six months but the supervised program lasts for a full year. During the time the balloon is in the stomach, the patient is learning portion control and working with a team of experts to overcome hindrances to their weight loss. The idea is if they change their habits and continue to eat healthy, exercise, and follow the same guidelines they did while the balloon was in place, that they will continue to lose weight and sustain that weight loss.

In some instances, a patient may complete two rounds of the Orbera balloon. After six months, one balloon may be removed and replaced with a new one.

How Will The Orbera Balloon Be Removed?

The Orbera balloon will be taken out of the patient’s stomach the same way it was introduced. The specialist will use an endoscope to access the balloon and deflate it using a catheter. Once empty, the deflated balloon is removed through the endoscope and out through the mouth. The removal procedure takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

What Are Some Common And Lesser-known Side Effects Associated With The Orbera Gastric Balloon?

Some patients experience about 5 days of side effects when the balloon is first inserted into the stomach with the first few days being the worst. Normally, after these first few days, the symptoms go away and will only reoccur if one of the “golden rules” is broken.

Most patients also experience fatigue and lethargy for the first couple of days after balloon placement so it is recommended they get as much rest as they can during this time.

Four of the most common side effects after having a balloon placed are:

  1. Nausea is the most commonly reported symptom and usually ranges from mild to moderate in the first week or so after insertion but then normally goes away.
  2. Vomiting: patients can experience mild to moderate vomiting right after initial placement or if they break one of the golden rules.
  3. Cramping is one of the most frequently reported side effects which normally occurs during the first 3-4 days after the balloon is placed. Your doctor can help you manage this with some medication. If you overeat or eat the wrong types of food, it can lead to cramping.
  4. Chronic reflux, heartburn, and belching are also common side effects that can be managed with over-the-counter medications or a prescription if necessary. Eating or drinking too much or eating rich, creamy, or oily foods can also bring on acid reflux symptoms.
  5. Bad breath: a lesser-known side effect of having a gastric balloon can be chronic bad breath. It is caused by food build-up on the balloon and can be addressed by drinking only clear liquids for 24 hours. Drinking carbonated water or ginger ale can help clean off the balloon.

Will The Orbera Balloon Affect My Medications?

Your doctors collectively will help you manage the medications that you routinely take.

Because the gastric balloon slows down the speed at which the stomach functions, it may take longer than you are accustomed to for the medication to take effect.

Medications such as ibuprofen, Nurofen, Voltaren, and other anti-inflammatory agents should be avoided during the time the balloon is in your stomach. These medications increase the risk of developing an ulcer and must be discontinued. Blood thinners would also need to be discontinued during the insertion and removal of the balloon.

What Will My Orbera Balloon Weight Loss Journey Be Like?

About 90% of the patients who undergo an Orbera balloon procedure have little or no appetite once the balloon is placed. For approximately two weeks patients are restricted to a liquid diet but most people do not feel hungry. It is common for women to lose between 4 and 9 pounds in the first week and for men to lose between 9 and 17 pounds.

After a few weeks, the appetite starts to return but nothing close to what it was before the balloon placement. When the patient does eat, they get full very fast. They must eat slowly and cautiously because it is very easy to overeat which will result in side effects. Taking it slow is advised because patients need to learn how much to eat and to pay attention to their body signals.

For the next 6 to 8 weeks, patients may gradually be able to eat more. At times, weight loss can plateau and the professional team at the weight loss clinic can offer strategies to break through these plateaus.

The most significant weight loss typically occurs in the first 3 months when using the Orbera balloon. Patients will continue to lose weight while following the program but it will be a slower process.

How Much Weight Can I Lose With The Orbera Gastric Balloon?

The Orbera gastric balloon is a tool to help you lose weight and Is meant to be used in conjunction with healthy lifestyle choices that include a low-calorie diet and an adequate amount of physical exercise.

The amount of weight that you lose after the Orbera balloon procedure will ultimately depend on how much effort you put into reaching your weight loss goal. Patients who make healthy food choices, follow the advice of their weight loss professionals, and engage in regular exercise will generate larger weight loss numbers than patients who take a more laid-back approach.

On average, patients lose between 35 and 50 pounds using the Orbera balloon however many patients have reported losses of 90+ pounds.

Will I Regain Weight After The Orbera Balloon Is Removed?

Maintaining a healthy weight is a life-long process and many times our metabolism will try to revert back to a “set” weight. (the heavier one we came from) We must understand that keeping the weight off is an ongoing process and may require new strategies and proactive management.

Open communication between the patient and the weight loss clinic is key to the continuation of weight loss or to maintain a new healthy weight. The professionals are there to help you successfully navigate your weight loss journey even beyond the removal of the balloon. If you see the scale start to creep back up and you are doing all the things you know you are supposed to do, then it is time to reach out for some strategic help.

It is not inevitable that you will gain weight after your Orbera balloon procedure and your team of weight loss professionals will do everything they can to help you avoid weight regain.

Does The Orbera Gastric Balloon Require Frequent Visits To The Weight Loss Center After The Balloon Is Inserted?

Each doctor will have their criteria for a follow-up schedule but yes, you will have to return and meet with your weight loss team several times after the balloon is placed.

Typically, patients meet with their team once a month for at least the first six months while the balloon is placed in the stomach. For the remainder of the 12-month program, if your weight loss remains on track, you may only need to touch base every other month.

During your program, some of the things you will learn are the importance of nutrition, how to overcome hindrances to weight loss, and the role exercise will play in your ongoing health. Your team will help you build a strong foundation that will foster long-term success.

Can I Travel With A Gastric Balloon?

Gastric balloons can safely tolerate changes in altitude associated with flying. However, that being said is important to note that not all locations in the world universally understand the nuances of gastric balloons. Despite the minimal risk of experiencing a complication, overseas travel is not recommended while you have a balloon in your stomach. There may not be a medical professional trained in gastric balloon treatment that could safely take care of you.

It is also important to note that if you did find a professional who could treat you, travel insurance most likely would consider the balloon a pre-existing condition and would not cover the expense.

What Happens If I Get Pregnant With A Gastric Balloon?

It is not safe to use a gastric balloon while you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If a patient finds they are pregnant and they have a gastric balloon, it will be removed as soon as it is safe, most likely during the 2nd trimester.

Obesity often inhibits a woman’s fertility and when weight loss occurs they begin ovulating on a normal schedule again. It is advised to use contraception while you are using the weight loss balloon because it is possible to become pregnant.

What Happens If The Gastric Balloon Deflates?

In the rare occurrence that the Orbera balloon did deflate, the patient would be able to eat significantly more and it would take more to make them full while eating. They would not stay satisfied between meals.

If the patient notices these things happening, they should contact their doctor to get an x-ray. If the balloon has deflated, it could become problematic and potentially cause a bowel obstruction.

If you are interested in learning more about the Orbera gastric balloon and how it might benefit you on your weight loss journey, contact Simmons MD Advanced Weight Loss Center to set up a consultation. Our team of expert professionals has dedicated their careers to helping individuals just like you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.

We would love the opportunity to speak with you about the non-surgical weight loss options that may be right for you. Contact us today to learn more!

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