Gastric Balloon Surgery

A gastric balloon is a smooth silicone sphere, filled with a saline solution, which is used to drastically reduce the size of the stomach as an aid to rapid weight loss. Although a temporary measure, the balloon is usually in place for a six month period. It will then be removed using a similar method to the one used during fitting. Gastric balloons are considered a very good means by which patients can form new and healthier eating habits.

What Are The Risks Associated With Gastric Balloon Surgery?

Watch Mr Chris Sutton, Consultant Specialist Bariatric Surgeon at Tonic Cosmetic Surgery, outline the risks associated with gastric balloon surgery:


Video Transcript

"The risks of the surgery depend on the type of procedure. Balloon placement has the lowest risk. The risk of death of having a gastric balloon is in the order of 1 in 10,000, so very low. I guess the same risk is crossing a very busy road, to put it into perspective. Then there are specific risks to specific procedures. Gastric balloon the main risk is nausea following the balloon placement. We’re very careful, we put people on really strong anti-sickness medication and we give them a lot of intravenous fluids after the balloon is placed to try and avoid them getting into trouble."

Mr Chris Sutton, Consultant Specialist Bariatric Surgeon at Tonic Cosmetic Surgery


Do I Qualify?

Qualifying for gastric balloon insertion is similar to other procedures, you will therefore be eligible if:

  • You have a BMI of at least 40, or;
  • You have a BMI of at least 30 and are suffering from a condition that would benefit from weight loss, such as type 2 diabetes.

In a private setting, whether you are eligible varies from practice to practice, however they often use similar criteria to those above with the extra criteria of not being able to lose the weight through conventional methods such as exercise and/or healthy diet alone.

Furthermore, as the procedure does not involve invasive surgery, you may also be eligible for a gastric balloon procedure if you are too overweight to undergo more conventional procedures, such as gastric bypass or gastric band surgeries.

Private or NHS?

Many patients opt to undergo their weight loss surgery privately, to speed up the waiting time or if they do not qualify for an NHS procedure. The cost of gastric balloon insertion is generally lower than other weight loss procedures, as it does not involve invasive surgery. The cost varies between private providers, but is typically around £2000. It is vital that you choose a quality private practice, as the promise of cheap gastric balloon procedures can often lead to medical mistakes or unnecessary complications.

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The Procedure

gastric balloon procedure

A gastric balloon procedure does not involve incisions or general anaesthesia like many other weight loss interventions. The procedure is done while you are awake, although a sedative may be offered to help you to relax. The doctor will pass a soft silicone balloon in through your mouth, down your oesophagus and into to your stomach with the aid of a thin flexible tube with a light source and camera at one end called an endoscope.

Once inside your stomach, the balloon is then filled with air or a sterile salt solution (saline) to take up room in your stomach, reducing the space available for you to take in food. The procedure is temporary, lasting up to six months. If you are severely overweight, you may achieve a large enough weight loss to then be eligible for further, more invasive weight loss procedures. The removal procedure is performed in a very similar way to balloon insertion; the balloon will be deflated and then taken out up through you oesophagus and out of your mouth with the aid of an endoscope.

Before Your Procedure

In the time leading up to your gastric balloon procedure, your doctor will recommend a healthy eating and exercise plan, in order to ensure you are in the best health possible. You will also be advised on fasting before the actual procedure.

Recovery following your gastric balloon procedure is quick, and you should be able to return to a normal lifestyle within a few days. You will be given a healthy eating plan focused on a low-fat, low-calories, small-portion diet.

Post-Procedure and Recovery

Prior to and after the gastric balloon procedure, the patient will meet their dietician who will provide a comprehensive regime to follow. This will allow the patient to make a speedy recovery, gain the most from their surgery and sustain weight loss.

Initially, the patient will be given small sips of water to drink, gradually increasing until they are ready to go home.

For the first few days a liquid diet will be in place. This includes milk, fruit juices and thin soups and should not exceed 1000 calories. No solid food should be taken within this time and fizzy drinks, ice-cream, chocolate and coffee should be avoided.

Around four days after the balloon has been inserted, the patient can gradually add semi-solid foods into their diet. These can take the form of porridge, fruit purees and thicker soups. Gentle activity can be undertaken.

You will be on a liquid diet and required to drink plenty of water. A dietician will advise you on what to eat, which is usually a calorie controlled diet and nothing after 6pm at night. You should also follow an exercise regime if you don’t do so already.

After a week, the patient will once again meet with their dietician to discuss any concerns they may have and to assess their diet. Following this appointment, the patient can start to ingest a solid diet. This should consist of a 1000-1200kcal intake per day whilst always considering a low fat option. Food should be eaten before a sip of drink and this diet should be strictly followed for 6 months before the gastric balloon is removed.

Weight loss can take time so you should set yourself realistic goals – nothing is going to happen overnight.

Risks and Complications

As with any procedure, gastric balloon insertions come with a number of potential complications or side effects, including:

  • Pain.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Minor bleeding.
  • Nausea, or a feeling of imbalance similar to sea sickness.
  • Gastric discomfort and vomiting (common for the first few days after the procedure).
  • A heavy feeling in your abdomen.
  • Abdominal or back pain.
  • Acid reflux and/or indigestion.
  • A theoretical but rare risk of balloon rupture. In this case it would usually pass through the bowel and be expelled naturally.

What Are The Potential Side Effects?

Watch Mr Chris Sutton, Consultant Specialist Bariatric Surgeon at Tonic Weight Loss Surgery Ltd, outline the potential side effects of gastric balloon surgery:


Video Transcript

"In terms of are there any side effects to weight loss surgery, other than losing weight, it depends on the operation that’s being performed. The side effects of a balloon in the short term is that people will feel nauseous. Other than that there are very little side effects to having the procedure, unless the balloon deflated in which case it could block the intestine. This is extremely rare, and that’s why the fluid filled balloons are filled full of a dye such that if the balloon did deflate unexpectedly the patient’s urine would turn bright green and they would know to contact us so we could remove the balloon before it became problematic."

Mr Chris Sutton, Consultant Specialist Bariatric Surgeon at Tonic Weight Loss Surgery Ltd


Keeping The Weight Off

A medical team will discuss your ongoing diet and exercise plan with you in great detail prior to fitting the gastric balloon. It's possible to lose a significant amount of weight, but keeping the weight off afterwards is largely dependent on each individual. A gastric balloon has the edge over a diet and exercise plan alone because the brain is tricked into believing your stomach is full, when only a small amount of food has been ingested. As a result, after six months of living with the gastric balloon, you should have adopted new and healthy habits that will take you through the remainder of your weight loss journey.

How Do They Remove A Gastric Balloon?

Removal of the gastric balloon is via the same route as its insertion. An endoscopic camera is used to guide a catheter into the stomach. The balloon is then deflated by puncturing, before being guided towards the mouth via the oesophagus. During the time you are fitted with the balloon, your body will have become used to smaller portions and to healthier foods. You will therefore be well equipped to carry on with your new lifestyle after removal of the balloon.

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