Balloon therapy is a non-surgical method of weight loss. Balloons are being used for more than two decades and are an important tool that can help patients to lose weight. Balloon therapy or intra-gastric balloons are usually made of silicon. A balloon is inserted through the mouth and placed in the stomach. It is then inflated with fluid and occupies space in the stomach, thus keeping the stomach full. As a result of this patients with balloon tend to eat lesser quantities of food. The main mechanism of action of a balloon is through dietary restriction. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker, Laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon, Saifee Hospital, Apollo Spectra, Namaha and Currae Hospitals, Mumbai, to know everything about balloon therapy and how it is better than bariatric surgery for weight loss.
Who should undergo balloon therapy?
Balloons work well for people who are in the overweight category (BMI 23.5 to 27.5 kg/m2) or have grade 1 obesity (BMI 27.5 to 32.5 kg/m2). Balloons can help to push the weight loss in people in these categories who have been unsuccessfully trying to lose the resistant weight with conventional methods like diet and lifestyle modification. Balloons can also be a good tool for weight loss in patients who are medically unfit to undergo weight loss surgery. Balloons are not advised in people with any kind of stomach infection and patients with severe acid reflux or hiatus hernia.
What are the types of balloons?
Mainly 3 types of balloons are available in India:
1. The non-adjustable balloon
This is a balloon where the fluid once filled cannot be adjusted. The initial fluid fill is for 500 to 550 cc. It can stay inside for 6 months, after which it needs to be removed.
2. The adjustable balloon
In this balloon, quantity of fluid can be adjusted by adding or removing. Adding fluid after a few months may help to push the weight loss more. It also has an added advantage that it can be kept inside the stomach for a longer period of one year.
3. The swallow balloon
This is the latest balloon that is available as a pill that can be inserted by swallowing. An endoscopy may not be needed for insertion. It also does not need an endoscopy for removal as it deflates by itself and passes out. However, the duration that it stays in the stomach is 4 to 4.5 months, which is one of the shortest.
Advantages of balloon therapy
- It is a non-surgical and reversible therapy for weight loss
- The side effects and complication rates are low
- Can be performed as a day care procedure
- Helps to push weight loss in patients who have tried everything else.
Side effects of balloon therapy
- Nausea, vomiting and crampy abdominal pain can occur in the initial phase after balloon insertion
- Balloon can lead to increased acid reflux
- Major complications are rare after balloon insertion.
- Weight regain after removal
Expected weight loss after balloon therapy
Weight loss results after balloon therapy are variable and cannot be guaranteed as every patient responds differently to the balloon. In best case scenario, total weight loss of upto 15% body weight may be expected. The challenge is about weight maintenance after the balloon is removed. After balloon removal, many patients tend to regain the lost weight over a period of time.
Balloon therapy Vs. bariatric surgery
Many a times, people get confused between balloon therapy and bariatric surgery. These are two very different weight loss procedures with different indications. Below table lists some of the major differences between bariatric surgery and balloon therapy:
Things to know about Balloon therapy
- Non-surgical option for weight loss
- Completely reversible
- Indicated in patients who are overweight or grade 1 obese
- Expected weight loss of upto 15% of total body weight
- Chances of weight regain are higher after removal
- Not an effective weight loss therapy for patients with morbid obesity
- Not covered by health insurance
Things to know about Bariatric surgery
- Surgical option for weight loss
- May or may not be reversible depending on the type of surgery
- Indicated for patients who have grade 3 obesity or grade 2 obesity with two obesity associated conditions
- Expected weight loss of 25 to 40% of total body weight
- Longer weight maintenance
- Effective therapy for patients with morbid obesity
- Covered by health insurance
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