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Frequently Asked Questions About Gastric Balloons

How does the gastric balloon help in weight loss?

The gastric balloon takes up space in the stomach, approximately the size of a grapefruit or ⅓ of an adult stomach, leaving less room for food. This helps in weight loss because less space creates the sensation of fullness quicker, leading to less eating and less calories consumed. It also help retrain to the mind and help individuals learn to eat smaller portions and stop eating when they’re full.

How much weight can I lose?

Individuals can expect to lose about 10-30% of their excess weight after 6 months, depending on which weight loss balloon they use and how committed they are to the process. Studies show the gastric balloon helps patients lose 3x more weight than with just diet and excess alone. The gastric balloon is only present to aid in weight loss by reducing the amount one can eat at one time. Smaller meals in conjunction with healthy food choices, exercise, and a behavior modification will optimize weight loss while the balloon in is place and for the long term.

Does the gastric balloon require surgery for placement?

No surgery is involved with the gastric balloon. Depending on the specific type of weight loss balloon you chose, it can be placed in one of two ways. One way is through an outpatient procedure called an upper endoscopy. Under sedation, a thin, flexible fiber-optic scope takes a deflated, durable silicone balloon and places it in the stomach. Once in place, another tool fills it with saline to the size of about a grapefruit. It stays there, taking up space in the stomach, until it is removed by the same procedure in 6 months. The entire length of the procedure is about 20-30 minutes.The other method involves a compressed gastric balloon contained within a dissolvable capsule, attached to a thin catheter that is swallowed. Once inside the stomach, the capsule dissolves and the balloon is inflated with nitrogen gas. The micro-catheter is then removed. Three balloons are swallowed over a period of 3 months. It typically takes less than 10 minutes per balloon and does not require sedation.

How do I prepare for the procedure?

Your surgical staff will conduct a pre-procedure health assessment before your gastric balloon procedure. At this time, your medical history and medications will be reviewed. Your surgical history will also be reviewed, because some complications can arise if you’ve had prior procedures in your abdomen or adverse reactions to sedation or anesthesia. Tests, like an ECG monitor your heart, and blood tests will likely be ordered to ensure no cardiac or other medical complication will arise. You will need to fast (no food) for at least 24 hours before surgery, with nothing to eat or drink 12 hours before surgery for most procedures. Your specific situation may vary, so be sure to follow your specialist’s instructions.

What are some of the health benefits of the gastric balloon procedure?

Numerous!! Multiple serious medical conditions can be improved or reversed with the weight loss that results from using the gastric balloon. Some of these benefits include joint pain/arthritis, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, high cholesterol and cardiovascular issues. People are not only healthier, but they feel better and are able to live a fuller, more active life.

What is the cost of the gastric balloon? Is it covered by insurance?

Gastric balloon procedures typically costs around $8,100, additional facility or physician fees may be additional. Insurance does not typically cover the costs yet, but exceptions are possible, so it’s always worth inquiring about. Most places also offer financing options, so be sure to ask.

Can you feel the balloon inside your stomach?

Some may notice discomfort from the gastric balloon for the first few days. After that, most only feel a sensation of fullness and occasionally nausea if too much food is ingested.

Can the weight loss balloon burst or leak? If so, what do I do?

Balloon deflation or leak is a very rare event. If it does break or deflate, the feeling of fullness after eating will go away. There is also a blue dye in the saline of some types of the gastric balloons, so if they leak, the blue color may appear in your urine. If any defect of the gastric balloon is suspected, notify your specialist right away  A simple abdominal x-ray can determine whether deflation has occurred. If it has, the balloon can be removed and replaced.

How will I have to eat with my balloon?

For the first few weeks, you’ll likely be on a liquid to soft food diet as you get used to the balloon being in your stomach. After that, the goal is to get used to smaller, healthier portions when eating. You’ll want to minimize/avoid foods that may stick to the gastric balloon and cause nausea and bad breath, for example: pasta, bread and rice. You’ll also want to make a habit of drinking frequently to rinse off gastric balloon.

Will I need vitamins or other supplements after the procedure?

Yes. Vitamin deficiencies are not as common with gastric balloons as they are with other bariatric procedures (usually the surgeries), but fewer calories will be consumed due to the presence of the gastric balloon, and nutritious food choices and supplements are recommended to avoid vitamin deficiencies. A multivitamin, B12, calcium, vitamin D and fiber supplements are typically recommended.

Is the procedure painful?

No. Actually, most people are surprised at how smooth and painless the procedure is. No incisions are involved and recovery time is just typically a few hours to fully get over the sedation medication, if used.

Is the balloon itself safe to have inside me?

Yes. Gastric balloons have been used in the management of obesity for over 20 years. Hundreds of thousands of balloons have been placed worldwide with very few complications. Gastric balloons have evolved in shape, size, and design resulting in a more durable product that uses medical-grade silicone safe to exist inside your body.

Will I gain weight after the gastric balloon is removed?

While the balloon is in your stomach, the whole goal is to learn new eating habits and change your attitude towards food and eating. How long the weight loss last depends on the behavioral changes you learned and practiced while the balloon was in place. The balloon is only a tool in behavioral weight loss learning. The gastric balloon training has proven to successfully help individuals learn how to eat better and keep most of their weight off. On average, individuals regain only about 2 of the pounds they have lost after the balloon has been removed.

Is it possible to have the balloon put back in more than once?

After 6 months, all the gastric balloons approved for use in the United States need to be removed. Although it is possible to have your gastric balloon placed again after waiting another 6 months, you may want to see if your behavioral modification programs were successful first. If you believe you may need a replacement balloon because you are not yet ready for life without the gastric balloon, discuss your concerns and needs with your bariatric specialist.

What are some expected side effects after the procedure?

There is an expected physical response to having something foreign (i.e. the gastric balloon) in your stomach. Common side effects you may experience after the weight loss balloon procedure include nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort or pain, and significant fullness. These are typically mild to moderate in severity and rarely last more than three days. A liquid diet will help alleviate these common side effects and if needed, there are medications your specialist can give you to help until they subside.

How soon can I exercise or be active after my procedure?

If no sedation is used (for example, the Obalon gastric balloon procedure which involves swallowing a capsule), recovery is immediate and you can take part in your normal daily activities once you leave the office. With the other procedures that use sedation, walking and other daily activities are fine once the sedation medicine wears off and you are steady and alert. Strenuous, physical activity, however, is not recommended for 48 to 72 hours until you are able to maintain appropriate hydration and are not experiencing any dizziness or lightheadedness. Driving is not recommended until you have been off pain and anxiety medications for at least 8 hours and are alert enough to drive.

Are there foods/drinks I will need to avoid with the gastric balloon in place?

Yes. For the first few weeks, you’ll want to avoid raw fruits/vegetables (the crunchy stuff), spicy foods, tough/stringy or overcooked meat. Once your dietitian or specialist’s team gives the okay to progress your diet, you can start to incorporate some crunchier, denser foods, but it is still recommended to avoid really tough/stringy/overcooked meats, hard to chew foods that might get stuck, refined white carbs (like pasta) which might stick to the balloon, fried, or high-fat foods.