Intragastric Balloon Therapy

What should you know about intragastric balloon therapy? What happens during the first consultaion?

Obesity is causing problems at increasing rate in both in Hungary and Europe. In the past decade the number of obese people has tripled. If this tendency continues, 20% of the population of Europe will be affected by obesity. Obesity is also associated with a number of comorbidities: it leads to a decline of physical performance, and obese patients are at an increased risk for developing serious medical problems (high blood pressure, diabetes). Therefore it is essential to fight obesity with an effective method.

Intragastric balloon therapy is a dietary weight-loss program that occupies an intermediate position between traditional diets and appetite-suppressant medications on the one hand, and surgical stomach shrinking (for instance gastric band surgery) on the other hand. During this non-surgical procedure we implant a gastric balloon into the stomach. This limits the amount of food one can eat, and gets the patient into the habit of eating small amounts at set intervals. Gastric balloon therapy gives excellent results in case of a significant amount of excess weight, even with existing comorbidities, when other dietary methods are inapplicable, as well as after many failed weight-loss diets. During the first consultation our surgeon examines you, discusses intragastric balloon therapy with you, and asks what results you are hoping to achieve with this weight-loss program.

Preparing for a gastric balloon therapy

Before a gastric balloon implant you must go for a complete medical check-up. The reason for this is to find out whether you have any health problems that could influence the outcome of thegastric balloon therapy. All preliminary examinations are made at our Plastic Surgery Institute, so you do not need to queue up and wait in other health centers. In the course of the medical check-up we perform an ECG, do a chest X-ray, and as occasion requires, other examinations as well (laboratory tests, abdominal ultrasound, etc.), according to the specialist's suggestion.

Intragastric balloon implant

Gastric balloon implant is performed in a short general anaesthesia. The ball is inserted (and at the end of the therapy removed) with an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube that has a light and a camera on one end). This is a non-invasive procedure, so it puts minimal strain on the body. The volume of liquid in the gastric balloon is adjusted in the same way. The specialist passes an endoscope into the stomach cavity via the mouth and inserts the unfilled intragastric balloon. Once inside the stomach, the balloon is filled with tinted sterile saline solution (salt water) through a small filling tube. Depending on the patient's needs and the type of balloon, 400 to 800 ml saline is used. When the ball is filled and the catheter is gently removed, the ball seals automatically and floats freely inside the stomach. As a foreign body in the stomach cavity, the ball decreases the quantity of food that the stomach can hold.

The procedure leaves no scars. Isertion and extraction of the gastric balloon takes between 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on the type of balloon used, thegastric balloon remains in the stomach for 6 to 12 months. In order to remove the ball, the doctor uses an endoscope to introduce a catheter through the mouth into the stomach. The balloon is then punctured and deflated and the saline solution is drawn out. Once deflated, the silicone ball is grasped and removed via the oesophagus.

The intragastric balloon

The intragastric balloon is a spherical „container” made of elastic silicone. When the balloon is implanted into the stomach, it fills a significant part of the stomach cavity, which causes an enduring feeling of satiety. The balloon is made of materials that are not harmful for the patient in any way. The intragastric balloon is filled with tinted saline solution and it floats freely inside the stomach. As a foreign body in the stomach cavity, the ball decreases the quantity of food that the stomach can hold, and so it accustoms the patient to eating moderate amounts of food. The balloon also has an important psychological effect, as it is always „present” in the patient’s life. A diet based on sheer will-power is suspended much more easily for the sake of a birthday get-together or a Sunday lunch, and one also tends to „forget” about one's appetite-suppressant medications on these occasions.

For the first time, we now have a new, adjustable, high-quality balloon at our disposal. The size of the gastric balloon can be increased as required. In this respect it is similar to a gastric band. The gastric balloon, however, is implanted without surgery.

The intragastric balloon is deflated before it is removed from the stomach, and it causes no irrevocable changes in the stomach cavity. The gastric balloon procedure is performed by professionally acclaimed, experienced specialists, and so the procedure has only minimal risks.

Recovery and the risks of intragastric balloon therapy 

In our Plastic Surgery Institute we aim to make the intragastric balloon therapy as convenient as possible for you. You don't need to stay in hospital after the implant of the balloon; you will be monitored by a physician for a short period and then you can return home.

The main mechanism of the balloon consists in partially filling the stomach, thus inducing satiety and restricting food intake. This gradually accustoms the patient to developing healthier eating habits. During the gastric balloon therapy patients may eat and drink all types of food and drinks. However, respect of the dietetic program is a key factor in obtaining successful results. The aim of this therapy is twofold: the primary aim is weight loss, but the therapy also aims to change the patient’s lifestyle and eating habits in the long term.

During an intragastric balloon therapy it is realistic to expect a 2-3 lb (1-1.5 kg) weight loss per week. This amount can vary depending on the patient’s aptitude and also on how closely the he or she follows the doctor’s orders. By following a healthy diet designed by the specialist, it is possible to achieve a significant weight loss: up to 88-110 lb (40-50 kg) in 12 months, or 33-55 lb (15-25 kg) in 6 months.

After an intragastric balloon implant you will have follow-up appointments on the first week and in the third month. In case of a 12-month gastric balloon therapy, you also have to have a follow-up examination in the seventh month. If you have an adjustable balloon and you would like to have the volume adjusted, the specialist will be available to you between the obligatory follow-up examinations as well.

The results of intragastric balloon therapy

After an intragastric balloon implant the patient has an enduring feeling of satiety, and so eats less food, and starts changing his or her eating habits. During a 6 to 12 month intragastric balloon therapy the patient gradually shifts towards a new, healthier diet, acquiring a new lifestyle. If the patient follows the specifically designed meal program and the doctor's orders, a 33 to 110 lb (15 to 50 kg) weight loss can be expected on average. Due to this fact the patient gradually loses weight. Intragastric balloon therapy is almost ten times as effective as pharmacological approaches. Not only does this therapy help weight loss, but is also enables you to maintain the results later on.

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