What Is a Gastric Balloon?
A gastric balloon is a weight loss option that involves placing an inflatable balloon in the stomach to reduce its capacity, leading to quicker and longer-lasting feelings of fullness. This approach is considered safe and less invasive than weight loss surgery. They induce weight loss by decrease feelings of hunger, making you feel full faster and for an extended period. Overall, They also gastric balloon facilitate consuming smaller portions.
How does it work?
When a balloon is present in the stomach, it decreases the available space for food, prompting a feeling of fullness with less intake. By occupying stomach space, a neurohormonal mechanism signals the brain that you've consumed enough, contributing to feeling full faster.
The balloon slows down stomach emptying by approximately 2 hours compared to when no balloon is present. This prolonged gastric emptying time has been linked to better weight loss outcomes.
The balloon typically remains in the stomach for several months, helping individuals consume smaller portions, lower calorie intake, and achieve significant weight loss. After this period, the balloon is deflated and removed, and individuals are encouraged to maintain their weight loss through a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Gastric Balloon vs. Other Weight Loss Methods
Gastric balloons, along with gastric bands, gastric bypass surgery, gastric sleeve surgery, and lap-band procedures, all contribute to weight loss. Each method works differently and suits different individuals. Surgical approaches involve abdominal incisions to operate on the stomach or intestine.
Comparatively, the gastric balloon is a minimally invasive choice, offering a safe option for those ineligible for surgery due to medical reasons or those preferring a less invasive route. Unlike surgery, gastric balloon procedures are reversible and the balloons can be easily removed without major surgery. They don't permanently alter stomach shape or size. It may be performed as an out-patient procedure and can be performed without anaesthesia. The patient can go home on the same day.
Limitations of gastric balloons
Gastric balloons, while offering benefits, have drawbacks compared to surgical bariatric procedures. Firstly, their temporary nature limits long-term efficacy. Unlike surgical interventions, which create lasting anatomical changes, balloons are removed after a few months, potentially leading to less sustained weight loss. Additionally, their impact on severe obesity and related health conditions can be limited, as surgical methods tend to provide more profound and lasting improvements.
Secondly, gastric balloons entail the risk of deflation, migration, and discomfort during the adjustment phase. In contrast, surgical procedures like gastric bypass yield more significant weight loss and metabolic changes, with potential improvements in obesity-related co-morbidities. While gastric balloons might suit individuals seeking temporary solutions and less invasive approaches, those with more severe obesity or a need for lasting changes might find surgical options more effective in achieving comprehensive and sustained weight loss outcomes.
Limitations of surgical bariatric procedures
Compared to gastric balloons, traditional bariatric procedures come with certain disadvantages. Firstly, surgical interventions like gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy involve more invasive approaches, requiring incisions and altering the anatomy of the digestive system. This can lead to longer hospital stays, extended recovery times, and a higher risk of complications. In contrast, gastric balloons are minimally invasive, avoiding surgical incisions and reducing the associated risks and recovery period.
Secondly, permanent anatomical changes resulting from surgeries may lead to irreversible consequences. While surgical procedures offer profound and sustained weight loss, they can also cause long-term alterations to digestive processes, affecting nutrient absorption and potentially necessitating lifelong nutritional supplementation. Gastric balloons, being temporary and reversible, do not cause permanent anatomical changes, providing more flexibility and reversibility for those who might want to explore different weight management options in the future.
Lastly, psychological factors play a role. Surgical procedures may require more extensive psychological evaluation and support due to the substantial lifestyle adjustments they entail. These surgeries can also lead to shifts in body image perception, which might necessitate ongoing counseling. Gastric balloons, although effective in prompting short-term behavior changes, may require less intensive psychological support due to their temporary presence and lack of permanent physical alterations.
Efficacy of gastric balloons
Gastric balloons are proven effective for weight loss. Depending on the balloon and program type, they can lead to 6-15% total body weight loss. Studies indicate rapid initial weight loss, with around 50% of target weight loss achieved within a month after the procedure. The procedure also promotes healthy habits that support long-term weight management.
Advances in gastric balloon procedure: endoscopy-free gastric balloon procedure
Conventionally, gastric balloons are inserted and removed via endoscopy, which needs to be performed in a specialized centre and may require sedation. Some newer types of gastric balloon no longer requiring surgery or endoscopy. Patients are instructed to swallow a collapsed balloon (the size of a larger pill) with guidance by the surgeon. The position of the balloon is confirmed with xray immediately and the balloon is then inflated with saline via the connecting tube. Xray will once again be used to confirm the balloon's position. The tube is then removed and the procedure is completed within 30 minutes.
After gastric balloon insertion, a holistic weight loss solution encompassing medical support, digital tools, personalized nutrition, and behavior change coaching should be employed to optimize the patient journey and weight loss outcome. Initial discomfort, nausea, and vomiting usually subside within a week. A liquid diet transitions to solid foods within the first month, often as quick as the first two weeks. After 16 weeks, the balloon self-empties and exits naturally.
Ultimately, the choice between gastric balloons and surgical bariatric procedures hinges on individual preferences, medical considerations, and desired outcomes. While surgical options offer more profound and lasting weight loss, they come with greater invasiveness, permanent changes, and psychological considerations. On the other hand, gastric balloons provide a less invasive, temporary alternative, suitable for those seeking moderate weight loss or individuals who might want to explore different approaches down the line.