Intragastric balloon is a new, non-invasive, and temporary weight loss procedure that involves swallowing a silicone balloon that is passed into the stomach and filled with saline. It has been shown to result in a 26 to 46% reduction in excess weight. Although this reduction is modest in comparison to gastric sleeve, bypass or lap band surgeries, intragastric balloon is much less invasive, and is often seen as a stepping stone to either qualifying for more invasive bariatric surgery or used to jump-start an intensive diet and exercise program. Removal of the balloon occurs 3 to 12 months after insertion, usually after about 6 months.
Who is a candidate?
Candidates tend to have a BMI between 30 and 40, sometimes with accompanying diseases such as diabetes, sleep apnea, cardiomyopathy (heart damage) or severe joint degeneration and pain. They should have a long record of failed previous non-surgical weight loss interventions (diet, exercise) before considering intragastric balloon. However, intragastric balloon is considered an intermediary gastric procedure that is significantly less invasive than other procedures such as gastric sleeve or gastric lap band, as there is neither open nor laparoscopic surgery.
Who is not a candidate?
Patients who have current drug and alcohol issues, untreated major depression or psychosis, or severe cardiac disease may not be good candidates. Prior gastrointestinal or bariatric surgery may also prevent you from being able to have a intragastric balloon inserted. Additionally, any inflammatory diseases such as gastrointestinal reflux disease, upper GI bleeding, or any medical condition that would bar endoscopy may disqualify you from intragastric balloon.
An initial consultation for intragastric balloon is required to determine if the procedure is right, and which type of gastric balloon to use. Anesthesia (local numbing spray) and possible sedation may be discussed. You will likely be required to fast for 12 hours prior to the outpatient procedure, which takes about half an hour.
Typically, patients return home the day of the procedure, and may need to rest for 3 days prior to returning to work and normal activity. Pain and nausea occur in the first few days after treatment for about a third of patients, but can be treated with oral pain medication. Patients should stick to an all-liquid diet for the first week, before gradually easing into pureed foods in the second week, and eventually back to a normal diet.
Although risks of intragastric balloon are rare, balloon deflation and blockage of the digestive system can occur. There are also the risks associated with being under sedation. Stomach ulcers or a perforation in the stomach lining are also possible and would require surgery.
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