The intragastric balloon is a soft, water filled silicone balloon about the size of an orange that sits in the stomach, taking up space and creating the feeling of fullness and thereby reducing food intake. It is inserted by a flexible telescope passed down your throat and into the stomach (a procedure known as endoscopy). This is done as a day case procedure with local anaesthetic throat spray and sedation.
However, there are some down-sides to consider:
It doesn't do much on its own. It must be combined with careful dieting and lifestyle changes and these must be continued after the balloon is removed so that the weight doesn't just go back on again
It loses its effectiveness after 4-6 months and may corrode or rupture, so we always plan removal after 6 months
It is relatively expensive because the price includes the cost of removing it
Who is suitable?
The balloon is only a short-term measure and so most people who really need a lasting solution should consider surgery. Nevertheless, balloon insertion may be suitable for people with BMI greater than 60, who might benefit from some weight loss prior to a definitive weight loss operation. It may also be considered for people with BMI below 35 who just need a "boost" to get them down initially, after which they can do it on their own.
Insertion of the intragastric balloon is NOT recommended for people with large hiatus hernia, chronic stomach ulcers or strictures (narrowing) of the oesophagus (gullet), those who have had previous gastric surgery, people on anti-coagulant medication such as warfarin, people with liver cirrhosis or portal hypertension, or pregnant women.
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