To Balloon or not to Balloon
23 Aug, 2016

Gastric balloons may be making a comeback. They are temporary space occupying bags of liquid inserted into the stomach and left there for 6 months to 1 year to reduce calorie intake. For the first week or two individuals are really limited to fluids only. A balloon usually contains approximately half a litre of blue-coloured liquid which can lead to sensations of nausea as well as vomiting in the first few days. It is one of the lowest risk procedures that we can offer as it is inserted with an endoscope, however it can still cause inflammation or can rupture (blue liquid will colour urine as an indicator) in a very small percentage.

I consider them an introduction to the world of weight loss surgical procedures, only because the percentage of weight regain following removal is high and the risk of early removal due to disconcerting nausea ranges from 1-5%, so perhaps the least powerful tool we have available. However it allows an individual who does not want a permanent procedure, would like to avoid a general anaesthetic and would like to re-program their lifestyle to kick-start this process and use the balloon as a 6 month tool to achieve these goals. If all fails after removal the option of having any of the other three interventions (band, sleeve, bypass if eligible) is still open. Of course there are financial implications which many people will have to consider from the outset. That is the main reason why it is not really considered an option in the NHS, where investment is directed towards the most powerful operation that can achieve the goal of effective weight loss with its attendant benefits.

It is really important to have a full discussion with your surgeon to find out if this is a good option for you.

Written by Mr Ahmed Hamouda

Mr Ahmed Hamouda is The Director of Weight Loss Surgery Kent. He is a highly trained and experienced Consultant Bariatric and General Surgeon.
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