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Medically Reviewed April 2023, by Mr. Bryan Mayou (GMC: 1414396) - founder of the Cadogan Clinic and one of the world's leading plastic surgeons
Gastric balloon is a weight loss procedure that involves placing a saline-filled balloon into the stomach, filling a large area and making less room for food.
Gastric balloon is a non-surgical procedure, meaning there are no cuts, wounds or scars, and it is an excellent way to lose weight quickly and safely.
This weight loss treatment is ideal for people who have tried to lose weight through dieting, without success. A gastric balloon can be used as an alternative to weight loss surgery, such as gastric sleeve and gastric band, or it can be used as part of a staged treatment plan. For example, a gastric balloon may be a good option if you are too heavy or too high risk for weight loss surgery.
A gastric balloon is only a temporary measure and once the balloon is removed, you will have adapted to smaller portion sizes and developed new, healthier, eating habits. You will receive support once the balloon has been deflated to help you maintain these new habits and avoid slipping back into the old ones and putting back on the weight you have lost.
Unlike a gastric sleeve or a gastric bypass, a gastric balloon makes no permanent alterations to the structure or function of the stomach.Get in touch
The primary goal of a gastric balloon is to lose weight and cut the risk of serious health conditions, such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnoea and infertility. Losing weight with a gastric balloon can also reduce the pressure on the joints, reducing the risk of joint pain and damage to the joints.
People who are overweight or obese feel self-conscious about their weight which triggers anxiety and depression. It also means they are likely to avoid certain social situations. Losing weight via gastric balloon usually results in a marked improvement in a person’s mental health.
You must have a BMI (body mass index) of 27 (overweight) or higher. The gastric balloon can be used to lose weight ahead of surgery and can sometimes be used as an alternative for patients who do not want to have surgery or do not meet the recommended minimum weight guidelines for surgery. Your surgeon must be satisfied that you are in good mental health ahead of the procedure.
You are not suitable for a gastric balloon if you have previously had gastric surgery, including any anti-reflux surgery. You will also not be considered if you have had a hiatus hernia measuring 5cm or above, a blood clotting disorder, severe liver disease, a potentially bleeding lesion of the upper gastrointestinal tract or any other medical condition that means you cannot undergo an endoscopy. A gastric balloon is not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women and anyone who is planning a pregnancy.
Words from our clients:
"I was extremely satisfied with the care and treatment I received at the Cadogan Clinic. My surgeon was friendly and informative and explained the procedure fully. My procedure went very well and with the excellent care of the nursing staff, I made a speedy and full recovery. Would recommend to anyone."Eva Berry
"At the beginning before the operation the nurse taking care of me made me feel so comfortable. The surgeon and anesthetist helped me feel so calm. Fantastic before and after treatment"Scarlett Elliott
"The girls on the reception at the clinic were very pleasant and professional. The nurse who took out my stitches after my surgery was just lovely and took me through step by step what she was doing and she also recommended a great cream to use to help with healing."Georgina Nolan
“I was treated with care and provided with thorough knowledge about the procedure I was undertaking. My surgeon was very methodical (a perfectionist) and I felt I received A class treatment."Courtney O'Sullivan
"Outstanding experience from the first appointment to being discharged. Very professional, friendly and a fantastic outcome."Gemma Stevenson
"Reception staff very welcoming and efficient. Both nurses who I dealt with were fantastic, and the whole team (anaesthetist, surgeon etc) were friendly but professional, and really put my mind at ease. That I was able to stay later than I perhaps needed after my surgery to fit in with my husbands schedule was greatly appreciated."Emma Davies
The gastric balloon is gently guided through the mouth and down the throat into the stomach. Once in place, the gastric balloon is filled with saline solution. This makes the balloon expand and take up more room in the stomach, meaning there is less room for food and you feel fuller more quickly. As a result, you will need to cut down on your portion sizes. A gastric balloon is typically around 700ml in volume and is made from a specially designed silicone that cannot be damaged by stomach acid.
A gastric balloon may be in situ for four or six months. During this time, you will lose around three times the weight that you would normally expect to lose through other methods, such as exercising and dieting. You should concentrate on eating healthily, avoiding fatty and sugary foods and snacking, to ensure that you enjoy the very best results from your gastric balloon procedure.
Once the gastric balloon has been removed, you will be given a support package as part of your aftercare to make sure you keep the weight off by making healthy lifestyle choices. This support will last for up to 18 months.
Depending on the type of balloon, the balloon may be deflated and then removed via the mouth. Alternatively, the balloon may be designed to deflate on its own before passing naturally through the digestive tract.
A gastric balloon is only a temporary measure and the procedure itself does not change the structure of your stomach. Unlike gastric bypass and gastric sleeve surgery, no surgical incisions are needed and there are no lasting physical changes to your body.
Below you will find some key information to help you prepare for surgery and make necessary arrangements to ensure you have the support you need and that everything runs smoothly on the day.
The first step for all of our patients is to meet with the surgeon we feel is best placed to perform your procedure for a consultation.
At the consultation you will be able to discuss with your surgeon what your hope to achieve from the procedure, as well as discuss in detail what may or may not be possible.
Finally a comprehensive discussion regarding risks and complications will take place, alongside a discussion regarding the post procedure and recovery phase. Your previous medical history will also be recorded (including previous surgery, medications, allergies etc.) and an assessment of your fitness for surgery.
If your surgeon feels you are a good candidate for surgery, you are then invited to consider whether you would like to proceed for surgery or otherwise following a two week 'cooling off' period.
Within this period you are welcome to come in and discuss your potential surgery with your surgeon as many times as you like.
02.Leading up to procedure
If you choose to proceed with surgery, the next time you come into the Clinic after your final consultation will be the day of your procedure.
Before admission the following behavioural changes are recommended / required:
03.On the day
A gastric balloon is introduced into the body via the mouth. The procedure is not carried out under a general anesthetic. Instead you will be given a sedative to help you feel comfortable during the introduction of the balloon.
The surgeon will inspect your stomach using a camera to make sure there are no abnormalities, such as a large hiatus hernia or an ulcer. They will then use a long tube called an endoscope to guide the deflated balloon through the mouth, down the throat and into the stomach. The tube fills the balloon with saline before it is detached and removed, leaving the balloon in place. Alternatively, you may be given a swallowable gastric balloon in a capsule to take with a glass of water. A tube will then be used to fill the balloon with saline solution while in the stomach.
The procedure will take around 20 minutes from start to finish.
The gastric balloon procedure is done as a day case, which means you can go home on the same day. When you do leave the clinic, you must leave accompanied by a responsible friend or family member.
Once the gastric balloon is in place, you will need to adhere to a strict diet for the first few days.
For the first 24 hours you should only take sips of fluids such as water, clear soups and cordial juices. For days two to five you can eat broth, soup, jelly and liquidised food. On day six you will be able to eat semi-solid foods before finally progressing to a calorie-controlled diet. You should follow your diet plan issued by the consultant as closely as possible.
As well as eating a healthy diet, you should also participate in a healthy level of physical activity in order to help you lose weight. You should try an activity that matches your ability, such as cycling, swimming or walking.
After gastric balloon treatment, you will need to take regular medication to suppress stomach acid. A number of people will also need anti-emetic medication for nausea for around one week after the insertion of the balloon. You may also need to take antispasmodic drugs for cramps for a short time immediately after the procedure.
As part of your treatment with the Cadogan Clinic, you will have access to 24/7 on-call nurse assistance for the duration of your recovery.
The Patient Journey. A breakdown of what you can expect on your journey with us
We are deeply invested in ensuring that every step of your surgical journey with us is as informative and reassuring to you as it can be. This article outlines what you can expect at each stage of the journeyThe Patient Journey
What are the benefits of a gastric balloon?
A gastric balloon results in substantial and rapid weight loss, which leads to major improvement to both physical and mental health.
By losing excess weight with the help of a gastric balloon, this can help improve cardiovascular health, cutting the risk of heart disease and stroke. This weight loss procedure can also help cut the risk of cancer and prompt obesity-related illness and disease to go into remission, including type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnoea and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Losing weight via gastric balloon can help to reduce the pressure on the bones, cutting the risk of fractures and osteoarthritis, alleviating joint pain and stopping joint problems from developing in the hips, knees, ankles, feet and shoulders.
Weight loss associated with a gastric balloon can also help to improve fertility, cut miscarriage risk and reduce pregnancy complications in women.
Gastric balloon procedures can have a huge positive impact on psychological health and wellbeing too. People who are overweight, obese or morbily obese suffer a higher rate of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. They may choose to avoid certain social situations or certain activities such as swimming, which will expose the body. This can also have a negative impact on intimate relationships too. This all feeds into mental ill health.
Because there is no surgery involved with a gastric balloon, this means there are no surgical incisions and no scars. Unlike gastric bypass and gastric sleeve surgery, there is no permanent change to the size or shape of the stomach.
How much weight can you lose with a gastric balloon?
Weight loss varies from person to person. But as a rule, if you have a gastric balloon fitted, you should expect to lose up to a third of your excess body weight. The average gastric balloon weight loss is two to three stone, with the majority of this weight loss happening within the first three months of the procedure.
However you must eat healthily and exercise if you want to see the benefit of your gastric balloon procedure. Avoid filling up on high calorie, high carbohydrate, fatty and sugary foods and drinks. It is uncommon for people with a gastric balloon not to lose any weight, but these lifestyle modifications are a crucial part of the process.
How successful is a gastric balloon?
A gastric balloon is a highly effective weight loss method. The bulk of the weight lost with a gastric balloon happens in the first three months and beyond this the balloon helps to support healthy eating patterns and acts as an effective form of portion control. This helps to instil healthy habits so you can continue to shed the pounds after the balloon has been deflated and removed.
Although it is possible to lose as much as a third of your excess weight, one in five patients with a gastric balloon may not see a significant reduction in weight. But following your post procedure weight loss plan carefully will help you to make the most of your gastric balloon treatment.
How long does a gastric balloon last?
Gastric balloons are only temporary. A swallowable gastric balloon can stay in place for up to four months before it deflates. You will not need to return to the clinic to have the balloon removed as it will pass naturally through your digestive system.
A gastric balloon that is put in place via an endoscope can be left for six months. The removal is done as a day case at the Cadogan Clinic and there is no need for an overnight stay.
You should have a liquidised diet for 48 hours and then 12 hours of fasting before the removal of the gastric balloon.
The endoscope is inserted down the throat and into the stomach, the balloon is punctured and the deflated remains are removed with the endoscope. The removal procedure takes 15 to 20 minutes and can be done under light sedation or a local anaesthetic throat spray. No general anaesthetic is required.
Is a gastric balloon uncomfortable?
Once the gastric balloon has settled it should not feel uncomfortable. However there can be a degree of discomfort after it has been placed in the stomach.
Most gastric balloon patients experience reflux because there is less room within the stomach. To avoid this, it is important that your meals are small and you take daily medication to suppress the stomach acid.
In the first 48 hours after having a gastric balloon installed, it is common to experience griping abdominal pains or cramps. This is because the balloon can irritate the muscle of the stomach wall. This usually settles over the course of a few days.
Nausea and vomiting is also a common after effect of having a gastric balloon fitted. This can affect up to 95 percent of people who have just had a gastric balloon installed. These gastric symptoms may last for two to three days after the procedure.
How should my diet change following a gastric balloon?
It is important that you make healthy changes to your diet to ensure you get the best results from your gastric balloon.
You should make sure that you eat regular meals. Ideally this should be three main meals and a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. After eating your evening meal you should wait at least two hours before going to bed.
Aim to drink at least 1.5 litres of water per day, but limit what you drink at mealtimes as this can fill you up.
You should avoid caffeine and fizzy drinks and foods containing simple carbohydrates such as sweets, chocolates, ice cream, pastries and dried fruit. Avoid foods and unhealthy habits that cause an increase in stomach acid.
It is important that you follow the meal schedule provided as closely as possible.
Are gastric balloons permanent?
Gastric balloons are not permanent. Depending on the type of balloon you have, they may last for four or six months. Some people may find that after their gastric balloon is removed they are able to stick to a healthy diet and continue their weight loss without the aid of a balloon.
After your gastric balloon is removed, it is possible to have a new one fitted.
If you were given a gastric balloon in order to lose enough weight in preparation for weight loss surgery, then you will go on to have a gastric bypass or gastric sleeve as planned. These weight loss surgeries are permanent.
How do I maintain my gastric balloon?
In order to maintain your gastric balloon, it is important that you follow your diet plan. You should avoid eating hard nuts and seeds and anything else that may potentially damage the balloon. If the balloon deflates and slips into the lower stomach or bowel it could cause an obstruction. This may lead to severe abdominal pain and vomiting.
Although the balloon is robust enough to remain safely in situ for up to six months, it should not be left in for a longer period of time as there is a slight risk of the stomach acid damaging the balloon.
Our expert consultant here at the Cadogan Clinic will talk you through the gastric balloon pros and cons and help you to decide whether this is the best weight loss option for you. Book an appointment today to discuss gastric balloon in London.
Founded in 2004 by world renowned plastic surgeon Mr Bryan Mayou, we now work with over 100 leading consultants and successfully treat over 20,000 patients each year. We have been winning industry awards since inception.About Us
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Although having a gastric balloon does not involve invasive surgery, there are still some risks attached to the procedure.
It is common to have a sore throat, heartburn, indigestion, abdominal pain and cramps, nausea or vomiting after having a gastric balloon. If you cannot tolerate the balloon, or struggle to keep fluids down and this doesn’t settle, then you may need to have the balloon removed prematurely. This happens to fewer than three in 100 patients.
There is also a risk of bad breath as food can coat the balloon.
Other risks include a chest infection due to aspiration, balloon rupture, bowel obstruction or perforation, bleeding and breathing or airway complications. These are rare complications.
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