Most people who need to lose 65 or more pounds have tried multiple times to lose the weight on their own. While they may have some success at first, less than five percent of people keep the weight off for five years or more. 

– Philip Schauer, MD, bariatric surgeon and Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute

The gastric balloon is a non-surgical weight-loss procedure that reduces the size of your stomach so you can feel full while eating smaller portions and consuming fewer calories. The gastric balloon itself is a medical device inserted into the stomach via the mouth and esophagus, and then inflated to take up room in the stomach. This helps patients experience a lasting feeling of fullness after eating smaller food portions.

Many people who use the gastric balloon lose between 20 and 30 percent of their excess weight during the first six months. After the six-month mark, many gastric balloon patients go on to lose up to 51 percent of their excess weight. The gastric balloon may be right for you if you’ve tried other weight-loss programs without experiencing long-term success, and if you want an effective, proven non-surgical solution for weight loss.

Several brands are available for gastric balloons, but the brands most commonly used are the Orbera Intragastric Balloon, the ReShape Duo, and the Obalon Gastric Balloon. If you’re not sure which gastric balloon is right for you, your doctor and medical team can offer professional recommendations and help you choose a device.

What happens during the gastric balloon procedure?

gastric balloon

Before your doctor inserts the gastric balloon into your stomach, you will be mildly sedated to reduce any related discomfort. After you are sedated, your doctor will use a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope to insert a deflated silicone balloon into your stomach via the esophagus. The endoscope has a light and camera on the end, which allows your doctor to see inside your stomach and perform the procedure safely and precisely.

After the balloon is inserted into your stomach, your doctor fills the balloon with air or a safe, sterile saline solution to inflate the balloon to roughly the size of a grapefruit. This reduces the amount of room in your stomach available for food. Some doctors use a gastric balloon pill capsule that has a fine, thin tube attached. Patients swallow the capsule, and the doctor inflates the balloon using the tube, which is then safely pulled out of the stomach via the esophagus. No sedation is necessary for the insertion of the gastric balloon in capsule pill form.

The gastric balloon procedure is performed as an outpatient service and usually takes only between 15 and 30 minutes to complete. There is no surgery involved, and no need for incisions for the placement of the balloon. Two hours after your procedure, you can return to the comfort of your home to experience a speedy recovery.

How Obalon™ Gastric Weight Loss Balloon Works

How Obalon™ Gastric Weight Loss Balloon Works

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What are the advantages of gastric balloons?

One of the main advantages of the gastric balloon is that this procedure is non-surgical, meaning you can enjoy the benefits of having a smaller stomach without having to care for incisions, developing scars, or worrying about serious complications. This procedure can effectively complement healthy eating and regular exercise to help you achieve weight loss.

Other advantages of the gastric balloon procedure include:

Non-invasive

The gastric balloon is a non-invasive medical procedure that does not involve incisions, the removal of tissue, or the rerouting of the digestive tract. People who have the gastric balloon procedure can reduce the size of their stomachs without anesthesia or downtime, and without facing the side effects and complications associated with surgical weight loss. Patients can return home the same day of the procedure without hospitalization.

Non-permanent

Weight-loss surgery options like gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy involve the permanent removal of stomach tissue. The gastric balloon is a temporary weight-loss device that can be removed after six months or at any time per your discretion.

Fast weight loss

The gastric balloon has been shown to help people lose between 23 pounds and 31 pounds after three months, and between 26 and 58 pounds after six months. After one year, patients using the gastric balloon have been shown to lose between 14 and 51 percent of their excess weight. This medical device contributes to relatively fast weight loss so you can start losing weight much sooner than with many other weight-loss methods.

Reduced risk of complications

The gastric balloon has been shown to be more effective than conventional surgical procedures and offers fewer risks. Most people who choose this weight-loss option do not experience complications. Weight-loss surgery, on the other hand, comes with risks that include infection, malnutrition, and obstruction of the bowel or stomach.

Improvements in health

In addition to helping you shed excess weight, the gastric balloon may help improve weight-related health conditions including heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obstructive sleep apnea. These conditions will gradually improve as you continue losing weight with the gastric balloon.

Less costly weight-loss option

The gastric balloon does not require you to undergo surgery, anesthesia, or hospitalization, and is less costly compared to many other weight-loss procedures. The cost of the gastric balloon ranges between $6,000 and $9,000, while many bariatric surgeries range between $15,000 and $25,000, or higher. Many weight-loss practices offer financing options to help people who want the gastric balloon and can’t pay the full cost upfront.

Advantages of gastric balloon

Dr. Keith Wright of South Texas Surgeons Discusses the Advantages of the Gastric Balloon

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What are risks associated with the gastric balloon?

As with any other medical procedure, the gastric balloon comes with its own risks and disadvantages. Take these factors into consideration when choosing the gastric balloon.

Mild pain and discomfort

You may experience mild pain and discomfort during the insertion and removal of the gastric balloon, though sedation may help reduce these feelings. Some people experience discomfort for the first few days after the procedure, accompanied by nausea and vomiting. However, these symptoms will go away on their own as your body and stomach adjust to the presence of the gastric balloon.

Potential complications

During the insertion and removal of the gastric balloon, there is a risk of perforation or bleeding in the esophagus and/or stomach. Other complications associated with the gastric balloon include abdominal or back pain, reflux, a heavy feeling in the abdomen, and indigestion. In rare instances, the gastric balloon may leak or deflate on its own. This may also happen to those who do not have their gastric balloons removed or replaced every six months.

Requires commitment and dedication

The gastric balloon can be used as a weight-loss tool, but cannot trigger significant weight loss on its own without your help, commitment, and dedication to living a healthier lifestyle. Additionally, this weight-loss procedure isn’t permanent — meaning at some point the balloon will be removed, and you’ll have to rely on optimal nutrition and physical activity to keep off the excess weight you initially lose with the gastric balloon.

How can I prepare for my gastric balloon procedure?

Prior to your gastric balloon procedure, your doctor will work with you to develop a healthy nutrition plan you must follow in order to safely facilitate weight loss using this medical device. Before your procedure, clean out your kitchen pantry and refrigerator, and stock up on healthy foods and liquids approved by your doctor.

Ask your doctor when you should stop consuming foods and liquids before the procedure, since your stomach should be completely empty for the insertion of gastric balloon. You may also want to make childcare arrangements if necessary, and arrange to be driven to and from the procedure since mild sedation and discomfort may interfere with your ability to drive safely. Your doctor will give you a detailed list of ways to prepare beforehand so you can experience a safe procedure and fast recovery.

What happens after my gastric balloon procedure?

After the insertion of the gastric balloon, you will start feeling full sooner after eating smaller amounts of food.

Following the procedure, you’ll be required to practice healthy eating habits and exercise regularly. For the first two weeks, you’ll be limited to liquids only as your stomach adjusts to the presence of the device. After two weeks, you can start eating soft, moist, pureed foods such as applesauce and ground meats. At week five and beyond, your diet should consist of a healthy balance of proteins, fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods that help promote weight loss.

Six months after the insertion of the gastric balloon, you must have the balloon removed to prevent the device from deflating or deteriorating while in your stomach. Prior to removal, the gastric balloon is deflated, then removed from your stomach using the same tiny endoscopic tube your doctor used for the insertion of the balloon. You may either decide to have the balloon replaced, or continue on your weight-loss journey without the balloon. Keep in mind that your stomach will return to its normal shape and size following the removal of the gastric balloon.

Am I an ideal candidate for the gastric balloon?

The gastric balloon is primarily used to help people achieve modest weight reduction, and is most ideal for people who have a body mass index (BMI) higher than 35. People who have a BMI of at least 30 may also qualify for the gastric balloon if they suffer one or more weight-related health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea. You may be an ideal candidate for the gastric balloon if you have a qualifying BMI, and if you have tried other weight-loss methods without experiencing long-term results.

Use our search directory to find a doctor near you who offers the gastric balloon for weight loss. A bariatric surgeon can evaluate your overall health and determine whether you can benefit from the gastric balloon or another safe, proven weight-loss procedure.

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