The Gastric Balloon – the Latest in Bariatric Procedures
Gastric Balloon surgery is a reversible, non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical intervention for the treatment of obesity. The procedure involves a soft expandable balloon being placed in the stomach via your mouth. It takes about 20-30 minutes to insert. Once inserted the balloon is filled with saline solution making it too large to pass through the sphincter of the stomach into the bowel where it would be excreted.
The balloon partially fills the stomach giving a feeling of fullness which makes it easier for people who have undergone the procedure to adhere to a reduced energy intake. However, it is not a foregone conclusion that you will automatically lose weight. For optimum weight loss outcomes the procedure needs to be combined with appropriate dietary, behavioural and exercise programs.
The procedure is marketed as a strategy to get you on the road to weight loss, NOT as a long term solution. The balloon is not permanent. Generally it is removed after six months because the acid environment of the stomach breaks the material of the balloon down and can cause it to deflate. Apparently blue dye is placed in the balloon so if it breaks down you soon know about it because your urine turns blue!! There have been a few cases where the balloon did deflate and became lodged in the bowel requiring surgical removal.
The balloon is usually removed around 6 months. The balloon is pulled back out through the mouth.
The balloon is marketed as an option for obese people who are more than 40% overweight and who have been unable to lose weight despite many serious attempts to do so. Because there is no surgical risk it can be considered for people with BMI’s greater than 50 who are a surgical risk until they lose enough weight to be considered fit for surgery. Because it is non-invasive and reversible it is also an option for overweight and obese people in the lower weight ranges.
The downside of the procedure appears to be nausea or vomiting in the first few days. And, as mentioned above, if the balloon does happen to deflate it can pass into the bowel and out. However, as already noted there have been cases where the balloon has had to be surgically removed from the bowel.
The balloon is not a panacea or a magic wand. It is possible that you will not lose weight if you do not adhere to a dietary regime despite websites saying you could lose between 10 and 25kgs. When the balloon is removed you will only maintain any weight loss you have achieved whilst the balloon is inserted if you adhere to the appropriate nutritional, psychological and exercise advice post-surgical removal. So, unless you address the behaviours, belief systems and habits that caused you to gain weight in the first place you will likely regain all the weight you lost as a result of having the gastric balloon and should save your money!
Surgical procedures or procedures such as the gastric balloon should not be taken as an easy way out. They are designed for people who have made genuine attempts at weight loss and who are willing to address their health issues from a nutritional, psychological and physical/exercise vantage point.