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For patients who have tried various ways to lose excess weight without adequate results, the gastric balloon is ideal for those who wish to avoid major surgery. The balloon, which is made of silicone, is inserted into the stomach and filled with saline to induce feelings of fullness. The gastric balloon is effective in helping patients lose weight, since it allows only a small amount of food to be consumed, thus reducing caloric intake. Like the gastric band, the balloon restricts overeating and requires patients to ingest smaller portions of food.
Common Gastric Balloon Treatment Technique
A fairly simple procedure, the gastric balloon only takes 20-30 minutes to insert and inflate. To insert the balloon, the physician first passes a small camera through the mouth directly into the stomach. This is done to ensure no abnormalities are present and it is safe to insert the gastric balloon. Once the physician has determined everything is okay, he or she will pass the deflated gastric balloon into the stomach. To ease discomfort, the doctor might offer a local anesthetic to numb the throat to make it easier to swallow. In some cases, muscle relaxants are also used to sooth throat muscles.
After the balloon has made its way into the stomach, saline solution is then pumped into the balloon through a small tube (catheter) attached onto the balloon. After inflation, the tube is removed. The balloon has a self-sealing valve. The balloon floats within the stomach. Physicians also add a specially made green dye so that in the event of the balloon leaks or ruptures, the patient's urine will change color, thereby alerting them to visit the doctor.
After the balloon is inserted and the patient is observed for a short time, he or she is free to leave the hospital. Since no general anesthesia is given, recovery time is virtually immediate. Patients might feel a slight discomfort for several days to several weeks as the stomach grows accustomed to the size of the gastric balloon. Slight side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and slight stomach cramping are common. After the first side effects subside, patients generally see entire weight loss occur within six months from the time of insertion.
The physician will give each patient instructions of what they can eat or drink for the first few weeks after the procedure. The gastric balloon can remain in the stomach for a maximum of six months, though the majority of the weight loss will be achieved within the first four months. The balloon removal procedure takes about 20-30 minutes, just as in the insertion procedure. Those who use the gastric balloon to lose weight are expected to drop 35-40% of their excess weight. For many, that averages to about 30-50 pounds, but pounds lost will fluctuate between patients.
Benefits of Gastric Balloon Procedures
A major benefit to the gastric balloon is the ability to undergo a weight loss procedure without surgery. It takes 20-30 minutes, and is virtually pain free with little side effects. Patients lose a substantial amount of weight, in addition to consuming smaller portion sizes and learning to eat healthier food choices. Anyone suffering from obesity may benefit from this procedure, as it functions much the same way as gastric banding, though without major surgery.