The gastric balloon is a therapeutic method of obesity. It works on the similar principle as gastric banding - it reduces the volume of the stomach, which is followed by decreased appetite and desired weight loss. However, unlike gastric banding, the gastric balloon is a non-invasive method that does not need an operation.
The procedure is performed by gastroenterologists. It begins with classic upper GI endoscopy. The endoscopic device is used to insert a special deflated balloon into the stomach and fill it with a special dye (usually blue). The balloon reduces the volume of the stomach, thereby reducing the patient's appetite. The days after the balloon introduction, it can be quite uncomfortable, causing nausea and vomiting. There have been reported cases of a gradual weigh loss over dozens of kilograms. The therapy should last about 6 months and after that, the balloon should be deflated and removed. Otherwise, the gastric acid could damage the wall of the balloon and perforate it. When such perforation happens, it can be found out thanks to the dye in the balloon. The dye flows out from the balloon, it is absorbed from the small intestine into the blood, filtrated in kidneys and the urine gets colored.
The procedure should be performed on empty stomach; the preparation is similar to classic upper GI endoscopy.
The long-term effect is questionable. Under ideal circumstances, the patient should accustom to a new lifestyle and continue it after the balloon removal. In practice, however, this does not always work and the patient may pick up the weight back. In addition, the gastric balloon is in many countries not covered by health insurance and the patient must pay both its insertion and the balloon itself.
The introduction of the balloon is painless and does not involve surgery. Although the long-term effect is questionable, short term weight loss is indisputable. The balloon is great in obese patient who need a planned surgery or another invasive procedure, but they are limited by the weight. When the balloon is inserted few months before the surgery term, they lose weight and they become capable to undergo the desired surgical intervention.