Not everyone who needs to lose weight is eligible for extensive weight loss surgery, and not all want to take this drastic step. If you find it difficult to lose weight using diet and exercise, and you have 2-3 stones to lose, a gastric balloon is a non-surgical procedure to help you lose your excess weight over a period of 6 months.

What is a gastric balloon?

A gastric balloon is a spherical ball that is placed into the stomach using endoscopy. The collapsed gastric balloon is introduced through the oesophagus, a procedure that you can have while conscious and just under mild sedation. No surgery is involved.

Once in place, the balloon is filled with sterile saline solution. It then occupies a significant proportion of the volume of the stomach. Some types of gastric balloon are adjustable; they can be refilled with more saline to make them larger if required. This may be done after a few weeks if weight loss plateaus.

Who is a gastric balloon for?

The gastric balloon is an option for several groups of patients:

  • Those with less weight to lose: the gastric balloon is generally recommended for people who are overweight, but who do not qualify for a gastric band or more radical weight loss surgery. If you have a BMI of 27.5–30 for example.
  • Those who are undecided about surgery: we also suggest the gastric balloon as a first option for patients who are not sure weight loss surgery is for them. If the gastric balloon does not suit you, you can still have any of the available types of weight loss surgery if you fulfil the requisite BMI criteria.
  • Those who need to lose weight before weight loss surgery: the gastric balloon can also be used in people with a much higher BMI to kick-start their weight loss. In some patients this can reduce their BMI and make subsequent weight loss surgery safer as this reduces the risk of complications with the anaesthetic and with the surgery.

How does a gastric balloon work?

The principle is simple. The presence of the gastric balloon in the stomach means that there is less available space for food. When you eat, your stomach fills up more quickly, stimulating the receptors in the stomach wall to tell your brain that you are full.
You can eat smaller meals and still feel satisfied. Eating less will result in weight loss, particularly if you also do more exercise after having your gastric balloon fitted.

Do I need to change my lifestyle if I have a gastric balloon?

Yes; the consultants and dieticians here at The Clinic will advise you on the right foods you need to eat. We encourage you to make your diet as healthy as possible; combining this with the gastric balloon will mean that your daily intake of calories will be significantly less than before.

If you do not change the types of food you eat, your weight loss will be slower. It is possible to eat small amounts of very fatty, rich foods, which will not help you meet your objective.

Most patients that we see are very motivated, combining their gastric balloon treatment with a healthier diet and with regular exercise.

How long does a gastric balloon stay in place?

Most gastric balloons need to be removed after six months to prevent damage to the stomach wall. Some newer versions may be suitable for up to 12 months.

Once the gastric balloon has been removed, if you continue to eat the diet you have been following, and keep up your lifestyle changes, you should be able to maintain your weight. It is possible to regain weight of course if you don’t.

In general, the gastric balloon is not as successful at inducing long-term weight loss as other weight loss procedures.

What problems might I experience with a gastric balloon?

All weight loss procedures can produce problems and complications. For the gastric balloon, these include:

  • Not being able to tolerate the gastric balloon in your stomach: although some patients find their balloon settles after a few days, others experience constant nausea, retching and vomiting and their balloon has to be removed.
  • Not losing enough weight: weight loss with a gastric balloon is quite slow, and most people lose 5-10 kg in 6 months. Others lose less weight, and have their balloon removed early because it is not working.

Private treatment at The London Clinic

For more information about a private gastric balloon treatment at The London Clinic please click here and complete the enquiry form or call +44 (0) 207 616 7693.