7 July, 2024

An Overview Of Gastric Balloon Pros And Cons

It can be very frustrating to try to lose weight by sticking to a low-calorie diet and a daily exercise routine without seeing any real progress. Often, there are things that we are unaware of that make it harder to create the calorie deficit that is needed to trigger weight loss.

Many of these things are outside of our control, such as genetic predispositions, hormonal imbalances, health issues, metabolic problems, and medications we are currently taking. And to top it off, our own bodies have built-in survival mechanisms that trigger when we start to limit our calorie intake. Our rate of calorie burn slows down and our bodies begin to store more fat to prevent starvation.

Sometimes it takes some type of medical intervention to help break through these challenges so we can lose weight. Historically, these types of interventions were done through bariatric surgery, but today individuals with overweight or obesity have non-surgical alternatives that are safe and effective.

One option that has been gaining popularity recently is the gastric weight loss balloon. Reveal Weight Loss is proud to offer both the Orbera and Spatz3 gastric balloons to help patients reach and maintain a healthy weight. Today, we are going to give you an overview of how they work to help you lose weight and lay out the gastric balloon pros and cons.

What Is Involved In A Gastric Balloon Procedure And How Does It Work For Weight Loss?

A gastric balloon is a soft silicone medical device used for weight loss. It is inserted into an individual’s stomach using an endoscopic procedure and then filled with sterile saline to take up a substantial amount of space.

The balloon is placed into the patient’s stomach by lowering it down while it is deflated through their mouth and throat into their stomach with the assistance of an endoscope. Once it is in the right spot, the doctor fills the balloon with the saline liquid until the balloon is about as big as a grapefruit and then removes the endoscope from the patient’s throat. The entire procedure only takes about half an hour and is done as an outpatient procedure. Patients are discharged to go home and begin their short recovery after being observed for a few short hours.

The gastric balloon helps patients lose weight because it takes up around ⅔ of their stomach capacity, which limits the volume of food they can eat at each meal. Also, reducing their stomach size slows down how fast their stomach digests food and empties, so they feel full longer.

Many patients have had great success losing weight using a gastric balloon. Here is a list of gastric balloon pros and cons to give you more insight into how it can help you lose weight and determine if it might be a good choice for you.

Pros Of Using A Gastric Balloon For Weight Loss

The Procedure Does Not Involve Surgery

During the procedure, the patient is lightly sedated, and the gastric balloon is placed into the stomach using an endoscope. An endoscope is a flexible, hollow medical device that resembles a tube but has an attached camera that helps the doctor guide the deflated balloon to the right spot. Once in place, the balloon is filled until it is about 5” in diameter. The entire process takes less than 30 minutes, requires no incisions, and avoids the risks of surgery and general anesthesia.

Orbera gastric balloon

The Balloon Is A Temporary Placeholder

A gastric balloon is part of a year-long weight loss program. The balloon only stays in the patient’s stomach for between six and nine months, and then it is removed. Throughout the entire year, patients receive excellent support and learn strategies to help them manage portion sizes, become more active, and develop healthier habits that they can maintain long-term.

If adverse side effects develop while using the balloon, it can be removed immediately. The gastric balloon serves as a temporary weight loss tool and does not permanently modify the digestive system or remove any portion of the stomach, like bariatric surgery.

Gastric Balloons Are Significantly Less Costly Than Surgery

The base cost of undergoing gastric sleeve surgery costs between $17,000 and $25,000 these days in the U.S. There may also be additional fees that are not included in these figures. Some additional costs that are associated with bariatric surgery include any financial loss due to time away from work and costs associated with getting extra help with children, pets, or household or yard maintenance during recovery. Also, after bariatric surgery, patients must purchase and take daily supplements for the rest of their lives to avoid malnutrition.

The cost of a gastric balloon is usually all-inclusive and runs between $6,000 and $9,000. This price normally also includes the comprehensive level of support patients receive for the entire program year, such as dietary consultations, education on nutrition, exercise program assistance, and other resources. The recovery after having a balloon placed is usually a week or less.

Qualifying For A Gastric Balloon Is Easier

Meeting the requirements for bariatric surgery can be difficult, especially if you need your health insurance to cover the procedure. Both the bariatric surgeon and the insurance company have their own set of qualifications that patients need to meet, but the basic qualifications include:

  • A body mass index (BMI) of 40+
  • A body mass index (BMI) of 35+ and at least one weight-related condition, such as hypertension or type 2 diabetes.
  • Medical insurance often requires proof that supervised weight loss programs have been tried for at least 6 months and were unsuccessful.

BMI categories

One of the challenges in qualifying for bariatric surgery is that patients often need their weight issues to be severe before they qualify for assistance. If an individual wants to get help before their condition worsens, they often do not meet the requirements for surgery.

A gastric balloon procedure offers patients with a lower BMI level a chance to prevent their weight-related issues from getting worse. It is also a good alternative for those who require surgery but are in poor health because of their weight. It allows them to safely lose a significant amount of weight, improving their health, so it is safe for them to undergo the necessary surgery.

A Gastric Balloon Offers Significant Weight Loss Potential

Research has shown that individuals typically lose three times the amount of weight with the help of a gastric balloon than if they used conventional low-calorie diets and exercise alone.

Most patients lose between 25 and 50 pounds while the balloon remains in their stomach, with the majority of this weight loss occurring in the first three months. One of the underlying goals of using a weight loss balloon is to teach patients lifelong habits that will help them continue to maintain a healthy weight. Some of these habits include eating a healthy, balanced diet, getting enough physical activity, managing stress, getting enough sleep, etc.

The gastric balloon pros significantly outweigh the cons.

Cons Of Using A Gastric Balloon For Weight Loss

Average Weight Loss Is Typically Lower

Individuals using a gastric balloon typically don’t lose as much weight as quickly as those who undergo bariatric surgery. While this is listed under the “cons” section, losing weight more slowly is healthier and is recommended by the CDC and other health professionals. One reason bariatric surgery patients lose more weight faster is because their recovery is longer and more involved. They can’t eat solid food and are required to follow a liquid diet for much longer.

Also, keep in mind that no matter what type of weight loss assistance you choose to use, your dedication to eating healthy, exercising, and following your program will make the biggest impact on how much weight you can lose. We have seen many patients lose more than 100 pounds using a gastric weight loss balloon.

It Usually Takes Longer To Lose Weight

As mentioned above, most individuals lose the initial bulk of their weight during the first few months after the balloon is placed. From there, progress slows down a bit,  but this can also help prevent side effects that occur as a result of losing weight too quickly, such as gallstones, hair loss, or weight gain.

Following your program and remaining engaged with your support system will help you continue to lose weight until your goals are reached. It is normal for the speed of weight loss to taper off as you get closer to your goal, but your doctor or weight loss team can provide you with strategies to overcome these plateaus.

Gaining Your Lost Weight Back

Whether you use bariatric surgery or a gastric balloon, if you go back to your old eating and lifestyle habits, you will regain the weight you lost. This is a bit easier to do after the gastric balloon is removed because no permanent changes were made to your stomach or digestive system. You lose the assistance you had in controlling your food portions, leaving it up to you to enforce them.

Complications Or Side Effects

Almost all individuals have an adjustment period as their stomach gets accustomed to the balloon. This normally takes between 3 and 5 days, and they may experience nausea and may even vomit, but these side effects are usually temporary and go away on their own.

Some individuals have more severe and ongoing side effects (nausea, vomiting, acid reflux) that do not respond to medications, which may lead to the decision to remove the balloon earlier than planned.

You Must Avoid Certain Foods And Beverages

Just like after bariatric surgery, or the installation of a gastric balloon, patients need to steer clear of certain foods and drinks. Foods like pasta can stick to the balloon’s surface, leading to discomfort, and alcohol is also something that you need to avoid. Fortunately, this issue is temporary and resolves once the balloon is removed.

After considering the gastric balloon pros and cons,  if you’re curious to learn more or see if you’re a potential candidate, reach out to Reveal Weight Loss for more information.

Reveal Weight Loss specialists are skilled in non-surgical alternatives to treat overweight and obesity. We would love to meet with you, understand your weight loss objectives, and develop a customized plan to help you achieve them. Book your appointment today!


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