The gastric balloon is an increasingly popular procedure, mainly because it is minimally invasive. It involves a balloon being placed into the stomach through an endoscopic procedure, after which it is filled with a saline solution. This stops people from being able to eat as much, leading to weight loss. As a pretty novel procedure, it is important to learn about what it actually is and how it works.
Gastric Balloon Installation
- The balloon is inserted through the mouth into the stomach.
- The stomach will first be examined for problems through an endoscopy.
- If no issues are present, the balloon will be placed by passing it through the mouth, down the esophagus, into the stomach.
- The balloon is made from a silicone elastomer material and is inserted in a deflated form.
- A throat spray will be applied to make the swallowing process easier, as well as medication to relax the muscles.
- Once in place, the surgeon will fill the balloon with a saline solution through a catheter.
- The catheter will be gently removed from your stomach.
- The balloon seals itself and will float in your stomach.
- It takes around half an hour for the procedure to be completed.
Keeping the Balloon in Place
- A gastric balloon is usually left for six months.
- The balloon’s material will weaken over time due to high acidity levels, deflating it over time.
- If the balloon has to be in place for longer than six months, it will have to be replaced.
- You may have to take medication to reduce the levels of stomach acid, thereby preventing damage to the balloon.
Removing the Balloon
- After six months, the balloon will be removed through an endoscopic procedure.
- A catheter will be inserted through the mouth, into the stomach.
- The balloon will be punctured and deflated.
- The balloon is grasped through special tools and removed through the catheter.
A number of complications are possible with the gastric balloon. These include:
- Minor bleeding.
- Back or abdominal pain.
- Vomiting and nausea for a few days after the procedure.
- Feeling sea sick.
- Having a heavy feeling in the stomach.
- Indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux.
- The balloon rupturing, although this is only a theoretical complication that has not yet happened. Should it happen, however, the balloon would simply pass through the digestive system and out through the stools.
Recovery Period After a Gastric Balloon Procedure
- Usually, the gastric balloon is placed on an outpatient ward, meaning you will go home the same day. You will first be checked for a short period of time to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction and, all being well, you will be able to simply go home.
- You will only be able to consume liquids for the first few weeks, moving on to soft pureed food and, finally, solid food.
- Recovery time after a gastric balloon is usually just one or two days, which means you won’t need too much time off work.
- Nausea and vomiting is common, but generally only lasts for a few days.