Gastric balloon FAQs

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About the gastric balloon

It is not a magic pill but a set of tools to help change your lifestyle; the Intragastric balloon device to kick start weight loss, a team of experts to guide you, and education and training to help you achieve a sustainable weight loss goal*.

Read more on how it works

The BIB gastric balloon must be removed after 6 months, the Orbera 365 must be removed after 12 months. If they are not removed at this time interval, they can leak and deflate. It will likely pass through your body naturally but in some cases it may need to be removed by a doctor.

If you work with the rules of the balloon it is a very successful weight loss tool. Most patients lose up to 2 ½ to 3 stones in weight. It will only work if you take on board the dietary and behavioural changes that are recommended.

Experience of our own patients shows that approximately 70-80% of your total weight loss will be lost in the first 3 months. After that, weight loss slows down and the gastric balloon plays a more supportive role in helping you maintain your weight whilst you continue to adapt to new nutrition and exercise habits.

The gastric balloon procedure

Placement of the balloon generally takes between 20-30 minutes during which you will be lightly sedated. The deflated balloon is inserted into your stomach through your mouth (endoscopically). Immediately after the balloon is placed and filled with sterile salt water, you will remain in the clinic for observation until the doctor discharges you. The intragastric balloon is removed through the mouth in a similar manner, under the same supervised conditions. Read more on how the procedure is performed

You should plan at least three days of inactivity to recover from the procedure. You will be able to resume normal activity sooner or later than this depending on how your body adjusts to the intragastric balloon.

Gastric balloon complications

The first three to five days can be very difficult. Cramping, nausea and vomiting are normal and should be expected. It is very important that you follow the Healthier Weight instructions and drink plenty of fluids. You may be prescribed medications to ease the discomfort. Serious complications are very rare.

The fluid inside the balloon is coloured blue and if there is a leak the fluids would empty into your bladder and the urine expelled would be blue in colour. It is highly unlikely that the balloon would deflate in the stomach but if it did you would be alerted by the urine discolouration. The deflated balloon itself would pass through the large bowel and expel itself in your bowel movement. If your urine became bright blue in colour we would ask you to contact us. Occasionally the deflated balloon may require removal by a physician. The balloon has been used in over 227,000 procedures and leaks are extremely rare occurrences.

The proton pump inhibitor (PPI) drugs you are asked to take for the duration of the balloon implantation should prevent any ulceration whilst the balloon is in situ. Smoking and alcohol intake increases the risk of an ulcer and should be discouraged.

Living with a gastric balloon

The first week you should not plan any heavy activity. Once your body has adjusted to the balloon, however, you can continue your normal activities. Starting a regular exercise programme is highly recommended and will improve your chances of success.

You will not feel like eating as much as you used to. In addition, if you eat fatty or sweet foods, you may feel sick. Excessive overeating while the gastric balloon is in place can be dangerous and can result in a serious medical condition. Alcohol in moderation is not excluded.

There will be discomfort for the first few days. After that, the primary sensation of the device will be a feeling of fullness.

The time frame for weight loss will vary from patient to patient. Both short and long term results depend on how well the patient adapts to the balloon, and their eating behaviour.

You should continue for the duration of the balloon implantation.

The idea of a balloon isn’t to feel full. You should eat until you are no longer hungry. You should learn to recognise the feelings of satiety, not feelings of fullness.

The balloon is a foreign object and has to settle into a comfortable position in the stomach. The balloon holds about half a litre of fluid. Your stomach needs to adjust to the device being present. The two stages we ask you to adhere to (liquid, soft/puree) followed by textured food help with this transition period. The balloon procedure will only work if you adhere to the rules of success. It will not stop you ingesting large sloppy portions of food which are high in calorific content. The balloon helps restrict portion sizes but cannot eliminate you from over eating if you really want to finish that extra mouthful or have a dessert afterwards. The balloon is there to help in making behavioural choices. 

When all symptoms have settled you may start physical activity. Always consult your GP if you have never engaged in physical activity before. If you join a gym the personal trainers will advise you on the type of activities you should do. In the first week after your procedure, you should not plan any heavy physical activity. Once your body has adjusted to the balloon, however, there is no reason why you cannot continue with your normal exercise regime. The only activity that we recommend you avoid are contact sports that might involve blows to the abdomen e.g. rugby, martial arts. Starting a regular exercise regime is highly recommended and will improve your chances of success. 

It depends what type of surgery. You would need to inform the operating surgeon and anaesthetist of the implanted balloon. If the surgery was not an emergency most surgeons would wait until the balloon was removed until surgical intervention of a non-emergency procedure. General anaesthesia can cause feelings of nausea and result in vomiting. This is something we would wish to avoid once those initial feelings of implantation nausea had subsided. 

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