There’s an exciting non-surgical option for weight loss, that you may have heard about recently. It’s called a gastric balloon or weight loss balloon. But exactly what is a gastric balloon? While there are several gastric balloon types, they all have similarities. Any type of gastric balloon is a device that sits in your stomach and takes up room. The balloon makes people feel less hungry, and helps them lose weight through smaller portion sizes. In addition, all gastric balloons are temporary devices – we put them in for about 6 months – and take them out again.
In clinical studies, people lost around 3 times as much weight with a gastric balloon, as they did with diet and exercise alone. Between the ability to place these balloons without any surgery, and the successful results many people see, gastric balloons are a strong weight loss option for some people. Let’s review the details of the gastric balloon from the different types of balloons, to the results you may expect, and the benefits people see from this procedure.
Types of gastric balloons
There are 3 types of gastric balloons commonly used in the US. All three are approved by the FDA, and all 3 are placed without surgery. Each type of weight loss balloon involves a flexible device that looks somewhat like a breast implant. All types of balloons are also similar in that they are placed down the throat, and inflated after placement. The balloons are placed and removed in office visits, and you’ll go home that same day. Here are the 3 primary types of balloons, and the differences between them:
Orbera gastric balloon
Orbera is one type of gastric balloon. It is a single balloon that gets filled with saline. When you come in for an Orbera balloon placement, we will lightly sedate you. We then put a thin tube down your throat, which will let us place the deflated balloon in your stomach. Once it’s in the correct place, we inflate it with saline solution and remove the thin tube. We then wake you up and you go home. The Orbera balloon stays in place for 6 months, at which point we remove it in a similar method to the balloon placement. In terms of size, the volume of a filled Orbera balloon is approximately 550 ccs, or the size of a grapefruit.
ReShape gastric balloon
Another type of gastric balloon is called ReShape. ReShape is a dual balloon system, instead of a single balloon, and is filled with saline like Orbera. ReShape is placed the same way as Orbera, but instead of one larger balloon, we place two smaller balloons that are attached to each other. Overall, the two balloons together have a volume of about 750 – 900ccs, so they fill somewhat more of your stomach than an Orbera balloon does.
Obalon gastric balloon
The Obalon gastric balloon differs from the other two types, because Obalon is swallowed instead of placed endoscopically. There is no need for sedation during the placement process. Obalon is a system made up of three separate balloons, that you swallow at three separate office appointments. After you swallow the deflated Obalon balloon in what looks like a vitamin pill, we will inflate the balloon with gas. On your next two visits, we will have you swallow another Obalon balloon, and inflate each the same way. The three Obalon balloons will all be removed at the same visit, approximately 6 months after you swallow the first balloon.
Benefits of a gastric balloon
Each type of gastric balloon helps you lose weight by taking up room in your stomach. This decreases the volume of food that the stomach can hold, which results in most patients saying they feel full with smaller portions. Some also find that they go longer before they feel hungry again. Patients with a gastric balloon often lose weight because of the diet and exercise changes they make, which work hand in hand with their balloon.
Our team will help you make choices about healthy foods like lean proteins, and work with you to find the right portion sizes. The benefits of a gastric balloon are greater than the device itself. Over the 6 months with your balloon, you will make lifestyle changes that you can stick with for the rest of your life. Beyond that, it is important to focus on your journey after balloon removal, where you can maintain successful weight loss without the device.
The gastric balloons also have the benefit of being non-surgical. There is no cutting, no stapling, and no stitches. And although bariatric surgeries have low risk in general, risks like infection or bleeding are even lower with the balloon. Furthermore, patients have the benefit of going home the same day as their balloon is placed, and returning to regular activities quickly. Patients find that not only do many people lose weight with a gastric balloon, but there may be improvements to weight-related health concerns like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Expected recovery time for gastric balloons
Since a gastric balloon is a non-surgical procedure, there is not the same need for a recovery time as there would be with an operation. However, it is important to be aware of some downtime you’ll want to plan for. Most patients feel some level of nausea and stomach discomfort when the balloon is first placed. This tends to be more pronounced with a saline-filled balloon, likely because the balloon is larger than each Obalon balloon, and is heavier than the gas that fills Obalon. Many balloon patients find that after the first week, their body adjusts and the side effects dissipate. You’ll want to keep movement to a moderate level while your body gets used to the balloons, and can add more exercise after the first few weeks. With Obalon balloons, you may find you have minimal downtime, and can continue with your regular activities quickly. Each patient is different, so the downtime can differ for everyone.
Expected results with gastric balloons
It is not possible to predict how much weight someone will lose, but studies have shown some gastric balloon patients lose about 20% of their starting weight. Weight loss with Orbera tends to be more dramatic at first – patients often lose the most weight in their first week or two with the balloon. Studies have shown these patients can lose about 3 times as much weight with their balloon, compared to diet and exercise alone. With Obalon, you have one small balloon in place after your first appointment, so some patients don’t notice a big difference until subsequent visits. For Obalon patients, it’s more typical to see an increase in weight loss after the second or third balloon is placed, instead of immediately with the first balloon.
Good candidates for gastric balloons
The best way to find out if you are a candidate for a gastric balloon is to get in touch with us so we can discuss your particular goals, medical history, and lifestyle. In general, here are some characteristics of potentially good balloon candidates:
- Most balloon candidates have a BMI between 30 and 40..
- Have tried repeatedly to lose weight, without success.
- Do not want surgery, or cannot have surgery.
- Have not had bariatric surgery in the past.
- Are over the age of 18.
- Do not have health conditions that are considered contraindications for a gastric balloon
- Are ready and willing to follow the dietary program that goes along with a successful gastric balloon program. Lifestyle changes are key to the success of any type of gastric balloon.
If you have any questions about what a gastric balloon is, how it may help you lose weight, and if these devices are a good fit for you, please get in touch with us so we can speak with you one on one.