Gastric Balloon

Weight Loss Solutions at RWJ University Hospital New Brunswick

A gastric balloon (also called intragastric balloon) is a non-surgical, short-term weight loss solution where a soft silicon balloon is inserted into the stomach through endoscopy. The balloon partially fills the stomach which leads to a quicker feeling of fullness after smaller meals. The procedure is done as an outpatient, with patients typically discharged after two hours of recovery.

The balloon is left in place for up to six months and then removed. Patients can expect to lose up to 15 percent of their body weight. The procedure is approved for those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 to 40.

The gastric balloon procedure is designed to be the start to a comprehensive weight loss program including dietary and lifestyle changes. Patients will have dedicated follow-up from our multidisciplinary team of experts, including a gastroenterologist, nutritionist, endocrinologists and exercise therapist. Follow-up will continue even after the balloon is removed.

How is the balloon inserted into the stomach?

After receiving anesthesia, an initial endoscopic examination is performed. A thin, flexible tube equipped with a camera and light is passed through the mouth into the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. The unfilled gastric balloon is inserted into the stomach through the mouth and esophagus using an endoscopic tube. The gastric balloon is then filled with saline and the delivery tube removed. The insertion of the gastric balloon takes about 20 minutes. You will be able to return home after the procedure.

How is the balloon removed?

The maximum placement period for the gastric balloon is 6 months. Removal requires another endoscopy. Under direct visualization, the balloon is punctured, deflated and then removed from the mouth.

Do I qualify for the intragastric balloon?

Ideal candidates for the intragastric balloon:

  • Have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 to 40; a higher or lower BMI may also be suitable
  • Be willing to participate in a medically supervised program
  • Have attempted weight-loss through diet and exercise without success

How much weight can I expect to lose?

It is important to understand that the balloon is a tool to aid weight loss and must be used in conjunction with diet, exercise and a behavior modification program. The amount of weight loss hinges on adherence to diet and adoption of long-term lifestyle changes. On average, patients lost 3 times the weight of those that were on a diet and exercise program alone. In clinical trials, patients lost an average of 15% of their body weight after 6 months.

During the first three months of treatment, patients have typically seen the most rapid weight loss. Once the gastric balloon is removed, the weight loss continues if maintaining diet and lifestyle changes. These procedures are best for people that have between 20 to 40 pounds to lose.

Is the Gastric Balloon Safe?

Gastric balloons have been used in the management of obesity for over 20 years and over 280,000 balloons have been placed worldwide. This is a very safe and reliable weight-loss solution. It requires no surgery, is only temporary, and the most common side effects last only for a few days. Among these problems are slight discomfort, nausea, and vomiting while your body adjusts to the presence of the gastric balloon. In some patients it may last one to two weeks. You may be prescribed medication to help minimize these potential effects. Major complications are rare.

Who is not a candidate for intragastric balloon?

Patients with the following are not candidates for the balloon procedure:

  • Large hiatal hernia
  • Previous gastric surgery
  • Heartburn symptoms despite taking heartburn medications
  • Prior open or laparoscopic bariatric surgery
  • Inflammatory diseases of the GI tract
  • Active ulcers in the stomach or small intestine
  • Variceal disease
  • Unwilling to participate in a medically-supervised diet and behavior modification program
  • Alcohol or drug addictions
  • Daily prescribed treatment with aspirin, anti-inflammatory agents, anticoagulants or other gastric irritants
  • Currently are or may be pregnant or breast-feeding

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