27 June, 2024

The Pros And Cons Of Gastric Balloons

Dr. Janese Laster with Gut Theory Total Total Digestive Care is a distinguished expert in the fields of obesity management, nutrition, and endoscopy. Her extensive experience and specialized training give her the proficiency to perform a gastric balloon procedure to help you achieve sustainable weight loss.

Her comprehensive understanding of these techniques enables her to offer personalized care and support, guiding patients toward achieving their weight loss goals effectively and safely. Dr. Laster’s commitment to patient-centered care ensures that each individual receives tailored treatment plans that align with their unique needs and health objectives

Attempting to lose weight through standard methods like eating fewer calories and exercising more can be very frustrating if you don’t see results. Many people face hidden challenges that are outside of their control and hinder their progress, which may include their genetics, hormonal imbalances, metabolic problems, medical conditions, and the effects of certain medications.

Sometimes, people just need a bit of assistance to overcome these barriers to weight loss. This help could involve prescription weight loss medication, a non-surgical weight loss procedure, or both. A gastric balloon can help patients lose weight safely and effectively without the need for surgery.

Today we are going to describe how a gastric balloon works to help you lose weight and give you an overview of the pros and cons so you can decide if it may be the right choice to help you reach your weight loss goals.

What Is A Gastric Balloon And How Does It Work?

A gastric balloon is a soft silicone medical device that is inserted into the patient’s stomach using an endoscopic procedure that does not require incisions or surgery.

Once the balloon is placed into the stomach, it takes up about ⅔ of the usable capacity, which aids in portion control because the patient cannot eat too much during each meal. Also, the balloon makes the digestion process progress slower, so the individual feels full for a longer period of time.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Using A Gastric Balloon To Lose Weight?

Studies indicate that only about 1% of patients who qualify choose to undergo bariatric surgery to help them lose weight. Intragastric balloons, like Orbera, provide an alternative to surgery for those struggling with obesity.

Pros Of Using A Gastric Balloon

1. A Gastric Balloon Is A Non-Surgical Procedure

There is no surgery or incisions involved in placing a gastric balloon. While the patient is sedated, an endoscope is lowered down through their mouth and throat to access their stomach.

This special medical tool looks like a hollow tube that is flexible and has a built-in camera with a light source. The hollow nature of the endoscope allows the doctor to lower a deflated Orbera balloon down the endoscope into the patient’s stomach and then fill it with sterile saline solution until it is about 5” in diameter.

The procedure is done as an outpatient, takes about 20 minutes, and there is no hospital stay. Because the procedure does not involve surgery or the use of general anesthesia, the risks are significantly lower.

2. A Gastric Balloon is Only Temporary

A gastric balloon is part of a year-long weight loss program, but the balloon itself is just temporary and is removed after the initial six months. After the balloon is removed, patients are to continue making healthy choices and participating in their doctor-supervised program for the remaining six months.

Unlike bariatric surgery, which makes permanent changes and removes a large portion of the patient’s stomach, a gastric balloon can be quickly taken out if the patient experiences any adverse effects.

3. The Gastric Balloon Program Promotes Positive Behavior Changes

Another pro of the Orbera balloon is that individuals are fully supported by a compassionate and knowledgeable team of weight loss professionals for an entire year. During the time the balloon inhabits the stomach, patients receive extensive support to help them control portion sizes, increase physical activity, and adopt healthier lifestyle habits. Patients receive dietary counseling, nutritional education, guidance with exercise programs, and more.

4. Recovery Is Much Shorter

It usually takes patients between four and six weeks to recover from gastric sleeve surgery or between six and eight weeks to recover from gastric bypass surgery. This can present a financial hardship for those who cannot afford to miss work for an extended period of time. In addition, a long recovery time may not be an option for those who are sole caregivers for the very young or the elderly. The typical gastric balloon recovery is a week or less, and patients can resume their normal schedule.

5. Gastric Balloons Are More Affordable Than Surgery

In the United States, gastric sleeve surgery can cost between $17,000 and $26,000, depending on your health, your surgeon, the geographic location, and the facility where the surgery is being done. A gastric balloon procedure usually ranges between $6,000 and $9,000.

Another cost that is associated with bariatric surgery that many do not account for is the expense related to the ongoing supplements patients must purchase to ensure they do not experience nutritional deficiencies. Many bariatric surgery patients need to take supplements every day for the rest of their lives.

6. Most Individuals Qualify For A Gastric Balloon Procedure

Qualifying for bariatric surgery is challenging, and many patients give up before they complete the process. The basic qualifications include:

  • A BMI (body mass index) of 40 or more;
  • A BMI (body mass index) of 35 or more and suffering from a weight-related condition like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or severe sleep apnea.

BMI chart

Medical insurance plans also have their own set of requirements in addition to the basics, which may include the patient providing proof that they have tried to follow a structured and supervised weight loss plan for at least six months but failed to lose weight on their own. They are also usually required to undergo psychological testing to ensure they understand the serious commitments associated with bariatric surgery.

Another challenge with qualifying for bariatric surgery is that a patient’s weight issues must be quite severe before they are eligible, and those who want to take action before their condition worsens often don’t qualify. A gastric balloon procedure is suitable for patients with lower BMI levels between 27 and 50, which allows individuals to get control of their weight issues before they become more serious.

A balloon is sometimes used to help individuals lose an initial amount of weight so they can undergo a surgical procedure more safely.

7. The Orbera Balloon Offers Significant Weight Loss Without Surgery

Clinical trials have shown that using a gastric balloon helps patients lose three times more weight compared to relying on diet and exercise alone.

Most patients lose the bulk of their weight during the first 3 months of their program, with the average weight loss at 6 months being between 25 and 50 pounds. After removal, patients continue to practice the strategies they learned in the accompanying program (focusing on nutrition, watching portions, stress management, incorporating daily exercise, etc.) to maintain a healthy weight. These new, healthier habits prevent the frustrating cycle of weight gain and the need for yo-yo dieting.

8. Metabolic Improvements

Clinical trials reported that weight loss yielded from using the Orbera balloon significantly improved metabolic conditions, including improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, LDL, HDL, fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, and in many even the resolution of conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, or type 2 diabetes.

Cons Of Using A Gastric Balloon

1. Average Weight Loss Is Lower Than With Bariatric Surgery

Compared to bariatric surgery, weight loss with a gastric balloon is usually slower and less dramatic. When looking at the cons of using a gastric balloon, you need to keep a few things in mind:

  • Bariatric surgery involves a lengthy recovery period that involves patients following a liquid diet for an extended period of time before they can transition to solid foods. This might explain why patients often lose weight quickly after bariatric surgery;
  • One of the biggest contributors to the amount of weight someone can lose, regardless of the type of medical intervention they use for help, is how dedicated they are to making the lifestyle changes needed to lose and maintain a healthy weight;
  • Many individuals have exceeded the average weight loss reported in clinical trials, losing 100 pounds or more with the Orbera balloon.

2. It May Take Longer To Reach Your Ideal Weight

During the first several months after a balloon is placed, individuals experience the most significant amount of weight loss. Then it tends to slow down from there and may require dietary changes or an increase in exercise to stay on track.

Losing weight slowly is considered safer and healthier by the CDC and other health professionals. It may take a bit longer to lose weight using a gastric balloon, but as long as you follow your program and work with your support team, you can break through any plateaus you encounter and continue to progress to meet your goals.

3. Regaining The Weight Is Possible

After the gastric balloon is removed, patients will no longer have the “forced” portion control or the prolonged feeling of fullness it provided. To keep losing weight or maintain their weight loss, they must continue practicing healthy habits and making good lifestyle choices. If they don’t stick to these dietary guidelines, they may slowly regain the weight they lost.

4. Unpleasant Side Effects

Most patients experience only temporary side effects after getting a gastric balloon. However, some have reported persistent side effects that don’t respond to medications and require removing the balloon. These side effects may include nausea, vomiting, and acid reflux.

5. Certain Foods Should Not Be Eaten While The Balloon Is Installed

When you have a gastric balloon you will need to avoid certain foods and beverages to minimize discomfort and maximize weight loss. We slowly increase from liquid to solid over a course of weeks. We discuss foods that take longer to digest or are higher in fat and are more likely to cause discomfort. You will need to initially completely avoid alcohol but then significantly reduce as it may cause symptoms of discomfort, or can cause stomach ulcers, internal bleeding, and other issues. It is important to stick to the dietary guidelines provided by your doctor. The good news is that the balloon is only temporary, so you will be able to enjoy it in moderation after the balloon is removed.

If you are interested in learning more or determining if you might be a suitable candidate for the Orbera gastric balloon after reviewing these gastric balloon pros and cons, reach out to Dr. Janese Laster at Gut Theory Total Digestive Health. She and her team of experts can review your medical and weight loss history and discuss the options available to you. Your personalized weight loss and dietary plan will be customized to meet your needs and specific circumstances to get your health back on track. Set up your appointment today to find out if the Orbera balloon is right for you.

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