Intra-Gastric Weight Loss Balloon
The intragastric balloon also known as the weight loss balloon is a recent development in weight loss devices, having been approved by the FDA in 2016. While the balloon represents a very interesting non-surgical weight loss option, there are inherent flaws which are the reason we do not perform this procedure. However, we do know that our patients want to know all of their weight loss options and as such, we will discuss the balloon below.
Types of Weight Loss Balloon
There are currently three different types of weight loss balloon. First is a single balloon, filled with sterile saline solution and placed in the stomach endoscopically (via the throat). There is also a tandem balloon – two balloons connected to each other and also filled with saline. The third balloon is swallowed in pill form and is inflated using inert gas. Each of these use the same basic theory for weight loss – by filling up part of the stomach, its usable volume is reduced, thus limiting the amount a patient can comfortably eat.
The three balloons also share a common feature, which we believe to be a significant drawback – they can only be remain in the stomach for a limited period of time. This is because the highly acidic environment in the stomach will eventually break down the lining of the balloon, causing it to degrade. This limitation lends itself to be a temporary weight loss solution. Although there is a one-year supervised weight loss program along with each balloon placement, we believe that the loss of mechanical restriction reduces the chance of long-term success.
Further, the gastric balloon is not covered by insurance and patients will have to pay upwards of $8,000 in cash to have the procedure. Again, the temporary nature of this procedure makes it, in our view, unnecessary. Considering that patients may have a lower out-of-pocket expense if their insurance covers a gastric sleeve or gastric bypass (with the potential for greater long-term success) the balloon becomes even less practical.
A Non-Surgical Option
We understand that many patients are drawn to the balloon because it does not permanently alter the gastrointestinal system, nor does it require surgery. These are certainly major advantages, however it must be noted that bariatric procedures including the gastric sleeve and gastric bypass are very safe in the hands of a skilled surgeon and complication rates are low. Further, bariatric surgery patients will enjoy lifelong support provided by our office and supplemented with monthly support groups, improving the chances of a successful long-term outcome.
While we do not perform the gastric balloon, we do recognize that for some, it is an ideal procedure. Even if you do you believe that the intragastric weight loss balloon is the best procedure for you, we encourage you to attend one of our free monthly seminars to learn more about every weight loss option available. Our surgeons will be more than happy to discuss the benefits and risks of each procedure you’re considering and give you a straightforward comparison between the balloon and other procedures we offer.
Regardless of the path that you choose, we wish you all the success in your weight loss endeavors and hope to see you at one of our meetings soon.