Intragastric Balloon – Facts, Risks & Costs

Not all medical weight loss procedures are for the morbidly obese.  If you don’t qualify for certain types of bariatric surgery because your BMI isn’t over 40, then you should know about the Intragastric Balloon procedure.

intragastric-balloonIt’s not surgery, and it doesn’t require that you to qualify as morbidly obese (BMI >= 40).  In fact, the gastric balloon procedure is perfect for anyone who needs to lose up to 25 kg (55 pounds).   To qualify, your BMI must be at least 30 (or 27 with 2 obesity-related health conditions like heart disease or diabetes).  You also must be at least 18 years old. Patients can expect to lose up to 29% of their excess fat, while surgical bariatric procedures usually result in more than that. (* Source: Mayoclinic) (Disclaimer: Weight loss results may vary from person to person.)


The Intragastric Balloon is Also For the Morbidly Obese

Maybe it’s for you even if you are morbidly obese.  Sometimes the Intragastric Balloon is used on patients who don’t qualify for surgery because they’re not healthy enough (i.e. they have heart and/or lung disease) or they are not keen on surgery, but need medical help with their severe weight issues.   The Intragastric Balloon is also sometimes recommended for obese people who plan on having a surgical procedure later on, but who need to slim down a bit in order to make other conditions improve for surgery.

Let’s have a look at how the Intragastric Balloon works, what the risks would be, and how much it costs…only with this info can you make an informed decision on whether its a viable option for your particular case.


What is Done During an Intragastric Balloon Procedure?

There’s no surgery here at all.  The procedure can be completed as an out-patient visit and takes only half an hour. The concept behind the gastric balloon is the same as restrictive bariatric surgery procedures.  That is, it limits the amount of food that can physically fit in your stomach.

However, instead of cutting, stapling, or otherwise shrinking your stomach, the gastric balloon method simply fills your stomach with a saline-filled balloon (or in some cases an air-filled balloon).  This means that when you eat even a tiny amount of food, you’ll feel full faster.  It also means you won’t feel hungry as often.


How it Works

The silicon balloon is not inflated until it’s placed in your stomach.  The balloon is inserted via an endoscopic procedure, meaning it goes in through your mouth, down your esophagus and into your stomach on a flexible tube.

Local anesthetic is all that’s required, or in some cases, sedation is also given…one of the best advantages of the gastric balloon procedure.  General Anesthetic is normally not given.  Also, because this is a non-surgical treatment for obesity, no incisions are made, either.  That means less discomfort, less time away from your daily routine, and less chance of complications.  More bonus points!

Because your relaxation during the Intragastric Balloon procedure will make everything go better, an intravenous sedative will also be used. Once the balloon is in place, the doctor will fill it with solution. Then, you’ll stay in the doctor’s office for a few hours so you can be monitored before you go home.


What Happens After Your Intragastric Balloon is in Place

Now, you return to your everyday life except for a few things which will now be different: you will accept the terms of a medically supervised diet and exercise program.  Don’t take this part lightly, since it’s going to make all the difference in the world between whether or not you keep the weight off once you’ve shed those kilos.

You’ll feel full faster, but unless you change your lifestyle, this will be a temporary weight loss solution.  This point cannot be stressed often enough!  Drastic weight loss is not simply a medical procedure whereby all the work is done for you.  Losing any amount of weight requires a change in behaviour as well.

You must adopt a healthy diet and begin some form of exercise regimen that’s appropriate for your health condition.  Even if walking around your house is a challenge for you, start pushing yourself bit by bit (under supervision of a doctor, of course) and focus on small gains.


After Six Months, the Intragastric Balloon Comes Out

This balloon is not permanent.  You will visit the doctor in six months to have it extracted via endoscopic procedure (same way it went in).  If during those six months of having the gastric balloon in place you did NOT change your lifestyle and alter your diet and exercise, you won’t like what happens next: You’ll gain all that weight back in no time.

Now that your stomach is normal size again, there’s nothing stopping you from gaining it all back, except your (hopefully) newly adopted lifestyle habits.


What Are the Risks of Gastric Balloon Procedures?

The Intragastric Balloon procedure is available in Europe, Asia, Central America and elsewhere throughout the world. Some of the small Risks of the gastric balloon include:

  • The balloon can leak or burst.
  • Insertion can have complications resulting in bleeding windpipe or stomach.
  • You can experience nausea or vomiting.
  • In rare cases, ulcers can develop.


What About the Cost?

Since we’re not talking surgery here, with all the inherent risk that brings to the table, the cost is much less than bariatric surgery.  Insertion of an Intragastric Balloon will run you one third of any other bariatric method..for estimated pricing, please check out this page.

Again, if you missed the section above on lifestyle changes, let’s repeat it here at the end (it’s that important!).  Your time, your money and your effort will all be wasted if you do not adopt healthy lifestyle habits during the six months your gastric balloon is in place.

Learning how to eat all over again takes considerable effort, but you must do it.  Eating vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein are just the beginning, as you begin your journey of adopting a healthy diet.  Prepare for this to be a major, singular focus of your life for the next six months, should you decide that the gastric balloon is right for you!

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