Gastric balloon • Is it useful as a weight loss aid?

The gastric balloon is not a long-term therapy for losing weight and maintaining it in the long term. In certain cases, however, this technique can temporarily help you lose weight. How the gastric balloon helps you lose weight and what the costs of the procedure are.

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What is a gastric balloon?

The intragastric balloon (IGB) is an expandable silicone balloon that is inserted into the stomach for a certain period of time and filled there with around 500 milliliters of saline solution. With some gastric balloon systems, the amount of fluid can also be adjusted later depending on the individual situation. Due to its filling, the balloon cannot be excreted during the digestive process and remains in the stomach.

Since the main part of the stomach is already pre-filled by the gastric balloon, the feeling of satiety occurs even with smaller amounts of food. It is therefore a restrictive (restrictive) method of treating obesity that limits the amount of food you can eat.

Procedure: How is a gastric balloon inserted?

The gastric balloon is an endoscopic procedure. This means that no surgery is necessary for this. The gastric balloon is inserted into the stomach using an endoscope through the mouth and the esophagus during a gastroscopy. This procedure can usually be performed on an outpatient basis and does not require general anesthesia, it takes about 30 minutes.

Usually a short sedation takes place in the form of twilight sleep (sleep injection). After the procedure, you should be picked up and accompanied home. Because of the sedation, you must not actively drive, operate machines, or make important decisions for 24 hours. A certain diet may be required before and immediately after the insertion of a gastric balloon. Which dietary rules apply should be clarified with the medical practice in the individual case.

The gastric balloon is not a permanent solution, because the material is increasingly weakened, among other things, by gastric acid. As a rule, the gastric balloon has to be removed after six months, but there are also special gastric balloons with a longer retention time. The removal is also carried out by gastroscopy with brief sedation. A new balloon can be used if this is considered medically reasonable.

Requirements: When is a gastric balloon possible?

In order to take advantage of an operative measure in bariatric surgery or metabolic surgery, special requirements must be met. Since the insertion of a gastric balloon is not part of the surgical procedure, these requirements do not apply here. Whether a gastric balloon makes sense must be clarified on a case-by-case basis.

For permanent weight loss in the case of obesity, obesity surgery in the form of a sleeve stomach or gastric bypass is usually advised if there is a medical need for this with a correspondingly high body mass index (BMI) and concomitant diseases and after the failure of conservative therapies. The gastric balloon is usually not considered an appropriate alternative.

The use of a gastric balloon may be considered in the following cases:

  • The patient is obese, the conservative therapies in the form of nutrition, exercise and behavioral therapy have failed, and surgery is either rejected or out of the question because the prerequisites for it have not yet been met.

  • The conservative therapies for obesity have failed and there are reasons (contraindications) that speak against an operation.

  • A surgical procedure is planned and the gastric balloon is to be used as a first step within a step-by-step concept in order to reduce the overall risk of the operation – such as gastric bypass – through previous weight loss. This is especially true in the case of an extreme form of obesity with a BMI of over 50 or severe comorbidities. In the abdomen, weight loss can provide a better overview and orientation for the actual operation and the operation time can be shortened. Studies have so far not shown any definite advantages, but this approach can be considered in individual cases.

What is the weight loss with a gastric balloon?

According to the guidelines of the German Society for General and Visceral Surgery, a meta-analysis showed a weight loss of 5.4 to 28.5 kilograms over six months.

The gastric balloon, however, is only an aid to weight loss. Successful and permanent weight loss can only be achieved if there is also a change in lifestyle. This means that eating and exercise habits must be improved and diets that are harmful to health must be avoided. Without changing your diet, you will regain your weight after removing the gastric balloon. The consumption of sugary drinks, which is still possible despite the gastric balloon and which may prevent effective weight loss, can be problematic. If the gastric balloon is considered as an option for the treatment of obesity, a corresponding accompanying program through qualified nutritional advice plays a major role in parallel.

Risks of a gastric balloon: what are the side effects?

Since the gastric balloon is used for a gastroscopy, the same possible risks can arise: In rare cases, this includes injuries to the stomach or esophagus from the instruments. Immediately after the procedure, the gastric balloon can cause temporary nausea and vomiting, which usually subside after a few days. If the symptoms do not go away, the gastric balloon must be removed early in a few cases.

A leak in the gastric balloon can be a possible complication. In the worst, but very rare, case it is possible that the balloon could get into the small intestine and lead to an intestinal obstruction. To prevent this complication, a dye can be added to the liquid in the gastric balloon. If the balloon breaks, the urine changes color. If there is any indication that the balloon has a leak or has burst, medical attention should be sought immediately.

What is the cost of a gastric balloon?

The costs for a gastric balloon vary greatly depending on the provider. As a rule, they are between 2,000 and 4,000 euros, depending on the system used. Health insurance companies rarely wear gastric balloons for weight loss purposes and not in preparation for an operation. Only in certain cases will the costs for the therapy be covered upon request.

It should be clarified in advance whether it is possible to assume the costs in an individual case. If you want to pay the costs yourself, you should find out in advance which services are included in the price. Since the accompanying nutritional advice is crucial for success, this should also be included as part of the therapy.

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Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by

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