A gastric balloon can help you reach your long-term weight loss goals. It is a non-surgical device that helps with weight loss. In this procedure, a surgeon puts a deflated balloon into your stomach via your food pipe. Once in the stomach, they will then inflate the balloon with saltwater.
30 - 60 mins
0 - 1 night
General or local with sedation
The inflated balloon takes up around 1/3 of the stomach, meaning that patients need to eat less food to feel full. This results in the patient losing weight as they start to eat less food over time.
The balloon often stays in the stomach for 6-12 months. However, stomach acid damages the material over time, and therefore it cannot stay in permanently.
Who can have a gastric balloon?
A gastric balloon provides an effective non-surgical option for patients struggling with weight loss. However, it is not suitable for everyone. It is most suitable for those who have a BMI of 28 to 35 and are prepared to make long-term changes to their diet and lifestyle.
As part of the assessment, the surgeon will want to discuss a patient's motivations for weight loss and check their BMI. Furthermore, they may want to discuss other weight loss procedures that might be more suitable.
Patients may be suitable for a gastric balloon if they are looking to:
- Lose weight before having another type of weight loss procedure to help reduce the surgical risk
- Want a non-surgical treatment for weight loss
- Have a reversible weight loss procedure
- Undergo a minimally invasive treatment that can be done with little interruption to daily life
Benefits of weight loss procedures
A gastric balloon procedure can help people achieve long-lasting weight loss, which comes with a number of benefits, including:
- Increased self-confidence
- Better mood
- Higher energy levels
- Better mobility
- Reduced risk of obesity-related medical conditions such as Type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea and more.
Why choose to have a gastric balloon procedure?
A gastric balloon is a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure that can help people with weight loss. There are several reasons why people are gastric balloon candidates. This page summarises the benefits of a gastric balloon and why people may choose to have one.
Who is an ideal candidate for this procedure?
A gastric balloon can provide a useful tool in aiding long term weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. However, it is not suitable for everyone. Patients must be committed to a supervised special diet while they are on the balloon and after it has been removed. In addition, people ideally suited for a gastric balloon should have a BMI of around 27-35. Furthermore, gastric balloons are non-surgical procedures, and as a result, the weight loss is not as significant or as rapid as surgical treatments.
Overall, ideal candidates will be patient’s that have a BMI of around 27-35. In addition, they will be committed to long term weight loss and changes to their lifestyle. Therefore, they must be willing to work with dietitians and attend regular follow-up appointments. This is important in ensuring that the balloon works and helps to achieve the desired weight loss.
Patients with a high BMI may also suit a gastric balloon if they suffer from any obesity-related conditions. Long term weight loss may help improve conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and mobility problems. In addition, it can have a good effect on people’s mood and self-esteem.
What a gastric balloon will not resolve.
Gastric balloon procedures offer a minimally invasive, non-surgical option for long term weight loss. However, there are certain issues they will not resolve. Patients must discuss their goals in detail with their surgeon. That way, they can ensure patients are having the right treatment to get the results they want. Overall, a gastric balloon will not correct:
A gastric balloon works to make patients feel fuller, faster. However, it will not influence the choice of food a patient eats. Therefore, if a patient struggles with their diet, visiting a dietitian may be more beneficial than having a procedure.
Rapid weight loss
Gastric balloon procedures are beneficial as they avoid surgery and have minimal downtime. However, the results from a gastric balloon take longer compared to other weight loss procedures. Therefore, if patients are looking to lose more weight over a shorter period of time, a gastric balloon may not be suitable.
Massive weight loss
It has been shown that a gastric balloon can help people lose up to 30% of their excess weight in the first 6 months. However, it is important to note that other weight loss procedures are associated with greater degrees of weight loss. Therefore, in some cases, if a patient's BMI is higher than 35, their surgeon may recommend a different weight loss procedure.
A gastric balloon is only suitable to be in place for around 6 months. This is because the stomach acid can slowly wear away the material. Although this is not dangerous within the specified time limits, it means they will have to have another procedure to have the balloon removed. Other procedures, such as a gastric bypass, are permanent and do not need repeating.
Performing a gastric balloon procedure
Overall, a special tube with a camera at the end travels through the mouth, down the food pipe and into the stomach. Attached to the tube is a deflated balloon. The tube positions the balloon in the stomach and inflates it with a saltwater solution. Inflating the balloon with water makes it take up space in the stomach. After inflating to the right size, the balloon stays in the stomach. The tube then passes up through the food pipe and out through the mouth. The surgeon will discuss the procedure in more detail during the consultation.
Before patients have the procedure, they will need to sign a consent form. This form provides information about the positives and negatives of the procedure. In addition, it describes the main risks and complications that can occur. The surgeon will talk through this form before patients can sign it. If patients have any concerns, feel free to talk any questions through with the surgeon. They will be more than happy to answer any queries. Patients should make sure that they fully understand what the procedure involves and the risks and complications. That way, patients can be sure they are making the right decision whether or not to go ahead with the procedure.
Local anaesthetic, with or without sedation, is usually used during this procedure. In addition, the anaesthetist provides medications to help patients feel more comfortable and relaxed. Once patients have had their anaesthetic, they will be able to have the procedure.
There are a variety of gastric balloon products available. Although they may vary from clinic to clinic, they are all inserted similarly.
The balloon is put into the stomach via the mouth. To do this, an inserting tube attaches to the deflated balloon and is placed into the mouth. This tube has a tiny camera on the end and allows the surgeon to direct the tube. In addition, it is flexible and thin, allowing it to pass through the food pipe. The surgeon gradually advances the tube down your food pipe until it reaches the stomach. The special throat spray is applied to the back of the throat to make the process more comfortable. Once in the stomach, a saltwater liquid immediately fills the balloon. After inflating to the right size, the balloon floats in the stomach. The surgeon removes the tube out of the food pipe and mouth, and the procedure is complete. Overall, this process takes from 15-30 minutes.
After the procedure
Once patients have had the procedure, they will return to the ward to recover. During this time, the medical team will monitor the patient and make sure they aren’t in any pain. Patients may find that their throat is numb or sore and that they feel a bit groggy. Generally, patients will be able to go home on the same day. However, it is unlikely that patients will be able to drive. Therefore, they should make sure they have transport arranged. It is also good to ask a friend or family member to stay with them for the first 24 hours after the procedure.
What to expect from the gastric balloon consultation
A pre-operative consultation is an important part of any procedure. Before having a gastric balloon fitted, you will need to meet your surgeon. At this meeting, you will discuss several different aspects of the procedure. This includes discussing why the patient wants to have the treatment and aspects of their medical history. The gastric balloon consultation is a chance to find out more about the procedure. In addition, it will help the surgeon to find out more about the patient. Overall, this will allow both the patient and the surgeon to decide whether a gastric balloon is the right procedure to help meet the patient's goals.
The consultation format
The meeting generally lasts between 45 minutes to 1 hour. The surgeon will ask about the patient's medical history, current medications, and any previous operations. In addition, they will want to find out why the patient is looking to have a weight loss procedure. As part of this, they may talk about any other methods of weight loss that the patient may or may not have tried in the past. Long-term weight loss is a big commitment and can be very challenging. Therefore, the surgeon will want to make sure the patient fully understands what to expect from the operation and follow up care.
As part of their assessment, the surgeon may have to take measurements such as height and weight. This is because they will need to work out the BMI. BMI value helps the surgeon decide whether a gastric balloon is appropriate for the patient. In some cases, other forms of weight loss surgery may be more suitable for patients with a higher BMI. This will be discussed in more detail during the consultation.
Risks and benefits
The surgeon will also discuss the risks and benefits of having a weight loss procedure. No procedure is without risk; therefore, they must be aware of the potential complications that can occur. In doing so, the patient can be sure they are fully informed before deciding to commit to having a gastric balloon.
What to ask at the consultation
The consultation is an opportunity to find out more about a gastric balloon procedure. Therefore it's advised to think of questions before meeting the surgeon. It is a good idea to write these questions down; that way, patients can be sure they have covered everything they wanted to know. There’s no such thing as a silly question. The surgeon will be happy to address any concerns that the patient may have. Remember, they are there for the patient's safety and comfort and want to know you feel happy about the procedure.
Here are some questions that a patient might like to ask:
- Do you think what I want to achieve is realistic?
- How much weight should I expect to lose?
- How much weight have your previous patients lost after this procedure?
- Is the procedure reversible?
- What will the recovery process involve?
- How many follow-up appointments will I need?
- Do you work with a dietitian as part of your team?
Risks & complications
What are the main gastric balloon risks and complications?
Any procedure carries potential risks and complications. In deciding whether or not to have surgery, it is important that patients know what can go wrong. This helps ensure that patients are making a fully informed decision. Listed here are the main gastric balloon risks and complications. The surgeon will talk about these in more detail during the consultation. They will also remind the patient of these risks before they sign a consent form.
Nausea and sea-sickness
In the initial days post-op, patients will likely feel generally nauseous. In addition, their stomach may feel uncomfortable. This is because the stomach takes time to get used to having less space. With time, these feelings generally subside. However, some patients find they their nausea and sea-sickness does not improve with time. In these cases, deflating and removing the balloon helps with nausea. Other alternative weight-loss procedures can be tried instead.
Abdominal and back pain
In some cases, the balloon makes the stomach feel stretched. This can cause a feeling of pain which can be difficult to localise. As a result, patients may feel pain around the tummy or back area which is hard to pin point. This resolves with time as the stomach adjusts to having the balloon in place.
Vomiting and indigestion
Once patients have had the balloon fitted, they will be unable to eat as much as they did previously. This happens as the stomach no longer has as much space inside. The surgeon will provide details about what to eat after surgery. However, it may take some time to get used to the new diet. As a result, patients may find that they eat more than their stomach can tolerate. This can lead to vomiting and feelings of indigestion. The surgeon may be able to provide anti-reflux medications to help with any indigestion or reflux.
A salt-water solution inflates the balloon until it reaches the right size. In rare cases, the balloon may have too much water inside, or the pressure to great. As a result, the balloon can rupture whilst it is in the stomach. Complications such as this are infrequent. Afterwards, the balloon passes through the bowel and is expelled naturally. Please contact the surgeon the patient notices increasing pain or feel as though the balloon has burst.
Injury during balloon insertion or removal
The surgeon uses a long tube with a camera attached to insert the balloon. The tube travels through the mouth, down the food pipe and into the stomach. To remove the balloon, the tube travels down into the stomach once more and deflates the balloonThus, thehe tube removes the balloon via the food pipe and mouth. In some cases, this process can cause damage to the mouth or food pipe. This may lead to bleeding, pain or discomfort.
Infection is a risk that can occur with any procedure. Using sterile equipment helps reduce the risk of infection. However, it can still occur. Signs of infection include:
- A fever
- Pain uncontrolled by painkillers
Please contact the surgeon if you have concerns about infection.
How to prepare for your procedure
Having a gastric balloon can be quite daunting. However, being as prepared as possible can help make the journey easier.
A gastric balloon procedure is minimally invasive and has little downtime. Therefore patients should be feeling back to their normal self soon after surgery. However, it is unlikely that patients will want to be going to the shops in the days after the procedure. As a result, it is good to do a big food shop one or two days before having the operation. This will also allow patients to prepare any special meals they may need after having the balloon fitted.
Food and drink
Once patients have had the gastric balloon fitted, they will have to follow a special diet. This includes only eating liquid foods in the first few days before moving on to purees and eventually solids. The surgeon will discuss the dietary plan after the operation in more detail. It may be a good idea to prepare some meals and freeze them down before the procedure to save time and hassle. That way, patients don’t have to worry about cooking and instead can focus on their recovery.
Patients are likely to feel generally tired and lethargic after having a gastric balloon fitted. Therefore it is recommended to get household chores out the way before having the procedure. This will allow patients to have more time to relax once they have had the operation.
Young children and pets
It can be difficult to look after young children and pets after having a procedure. Although patients may want them to be around while they recover from the treatment, it can make the recovery process more tiring. As a result, it may be a good idea to ask a family member or friends if they will help look after any young children or pets for the first few days after the operation.
After the procedure, it is unlikely that patients will be safe to drive. Therefore it is a good idea to arrange for transport to take home afterwards. For example, patients may want to ask a relative or friend to take them home.
What to expect after a gastric balloon procedure
The recovery process is an important part of having any procedure. It is therefore helpful to know what to expect after having a gastric balloon fitted. This gastric balloon aftercare page provides information on what to expect during the recovery process. Patients will also discuss this with their surgeon during the consultation.
Patients should try to follow their surgeon’s instructions closely. This will help ensure that the recovery process is as smooth as possible. In addition, it will help reduce the risk of complications occurring. These can have a negative impact on the final result.
As a gastric balloon is minimally invasive, the recovery should be quite straightforward. As a result, patients should be able to return to normal activities quickly.
Directly after the procedure
After the gastric balloon has been fitted, patients will return to the ward to recover. Once on the ward, the medical team will monitor and check that the patients do not have any pain. Patients may feel some numbness or discomfort in the throat. This can be eased with painkillers. In addition, if a sedative is used, patients may feel a bit groggy whilst they are on the ward. This will get better as they recover. If patients have any issues while they are on the ward, let the medical team know. They are there for patient safety and comfort and will be happy to help.
The majority of patients go home on the day of their procedure. However, in some cases, the surgeon may recommend patients spend a night on the ward. They will inform the patient of this either during the consultation or on the day of treatment. Patients should not drive after the procedure. Therefore patients should speak to a friend or family member to assist with going home.
Symptoms after a gastric balloon procedure
After having the gastric balloon fitted, patients may experience some common symptoms. These include imbalance (similar to seasickness), nausea, gastric discomfort and vomiting. This happens because the stomach has to get used to having the balloon in place. The symptoms generally improve within the first few days. However, the stomach may not tolerate the balloon in rare cases, and the symptoms may worsen. If this is the case, the balloon will have to be removed.
Returning to work
Overall, patients should be able to return to work within one or two days. This will largely depend on how much nausea and discomfort the balloon initially causes. Patients may want to book more time off work than one or two days if it takes longer to recover.
Returning to exercise and activities.
Part of a long-term weight loss program will include regular exercise. Therefore it is important patients can return to exercise quickly. Thankfully a gastric balloon has minimal downtime, and patients should return to exercise soon after the procedure. The levels of nausea and discomfort influence how soon patients will be able to return to exercise. Following the surgeon’s dietary advice and recovery instructions will help.
Food and drink
Having a gastric balloon will require patients to follow a strict diet regime suggested by the surgeon. As the stomach adapts to having less space, patients will have to change what they eat. In the first few days, they will only be able to have liquids. This will then progress to liquids and soft foods, and eventually, patients will be able to have solids again. The surgeon and dietitian will discuss this during the consultation and follow up appointments. If patients try to eat more than they should, they may find it will cause discomfort, vomiting and reflux. As a result, it is important patients follow the instructions closely.
Follow up appointments
The vast majority of patients will have their gastric balloon as part of a long term weight loss plan. As a result, continuous follow up with their surgeon and weight loss team is an important part of the recovery process. These appointments will include monitoring weight and discussing food intake. In addition, they may adjust the dietary and exercise requirements depending on progress made.
Long term weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. Therefore it may be some time before they reach your target weight. Having a procedure such as a gastric balloon can help on this journey. However, it will not be as successful without working closely with the surgeon and their team. Most patients have their gastric balloon removed at six months. In some cases, they may have another balloon fitted or undergo a different procedure. This will depend on how well it has helped patients to reach their target goal. The process is likely to be ongoing and is not always easy.
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All of the information found on our website is sourced from highly reputable experts, government-approved authorities and is widely used by healthcare professionals.
- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/weight-loss-surgery/ NHS
- Uptodate.com Up to Date
- https://asmbs.org/patients/bariatric-surgery-procedures American Society of Metabolic and Gastric surgery
Our content is written by our Medical Quality Managers and Patient Care Advisers, all of who have medical backgrounds and training. Prior to publishing, all the information is reviewed by a surgeon specialised within the relevant field.