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The Gastric Balloon- A new weight loss tool or a waste of time?

Industry News

Gastric Balloon implantation is fairly new procedure that was first introduced in Canada in 2006. The procedure involves a liquid filled balloon placed into the stomach of the patient through the esophagus for the duration of approximately six months.

The bag takes up about a third of the room in the stomach so the patient can eat less and not feel hungry. The procedure takes about 30 minutes to perform and the patient is discharged the same day to return home.

Who is an ideal patient?

Although it is a temporary solution compared to other stomach altering surgical procedures, the less invasive nature of the procedure may make it a better option for those who don't want the drastic surgery like gastric bypass for example. It is also ideal for overweight people whose BMI is not high enough for gastric bypass or lap band.

Although it is a non-invasive procedure, there are still potential risks to take under consideration. Some patients reported shortness of breath, chest pains, nausea, gradual gain of previous large appetite, noises in the stomach, heartburn, ill smelling gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Although rare, the balloon can also rupture and harm the intestines which can be life-threatening. A patient will know if a rupture occurs because since usually the liquid inside the balloon is blue, his/her urine will be green.

Where is it offered?

Americans are looking into this as a weight loss option but the procedure is not offered in the states just yet. This is because clinical trials are required before the FDA approves any procedure. It is available in Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, South America and other parts of the world so patients may need to travel abroad for this alternative method.

How much does it cost?

The gastric balloon costs approximately $6,000 total for its implantation and removal, including sedation during both processes. This is significantly less than bypass which can run up to $32,000 in the U.S. and lap band which is approximately $29,000.

Is it worth it?

Some patients that had the balloon implanted are upset because they did not get the results they expected. They believed the amount of weight they lost was not enough to have gone under the procedure and deal with the side effects. In a UK discussion board thread about the procedure, a few even mentioned they wished they had gained weight so their BMI was high enough to get gastric bypass since the balloon did not provide the drastic results they hoped for.

Others seem to have a favorable experience. They possible had more realistic outlook on the process and chose to be cautious of their diet and exercise regime. The range varies from 10 pounds to over 50 pounds.

It will be interesting to see when and if the FDA chooses to approve this procedure since it has been receiving mixed reviews from patients abroad that have had gone through the process.

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