How far would you go to lose weight? I discovered the intragastric balloon procedure is offered to overweight individuals in the country, well, for those who can afford it anyway. The procedure costs up to a million naira in some settings. Is this really worth the risk?
Here are some details about the procedure.
What is an intra-gastric balloon?
An intra-gastric balloon is a soft silicone balloon that is placed into the stomach and filled with a sterile saline solution. The balloon partially fills the stomach which leads to a feeling of fullness. The intra-gastric balloon helps you to control your portion sizes and can lead to weight loss when combined with an appropriate diet and behavioral modifications. It is recommended for patients who need to lose weight before an operation, to reduce their surgical risk. It can also be used as a stand alone, non-surgical treatment option for weight management.
What happens during intra-gastric balloon insertion?
The balloon is inserted into the stomach through the mouth and gullet (oesophagus). Patients are sedated for this procedure.
Once in the stomach, the balloon is filled with liquid so that it partially fills the stomach. The balloon can be left in place for up to six months, after which it must be removed.
Why should I have an intra-gastric balloon insertion?
It is recommended for patients who need to lose weight before an operation to reduce their surgical risk, or it can be used as a stand alone, non-surgical treatment option for weight management.
Intra-gastric balloon insertion is also recommended for patients who:
• have significant health risks related to their obesity, such as a BMI (Body Mass Index) of more than 40kgs/m2, or a BMI of more than 35kgs/m2 as well as diabetes, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, polycystic ovary syndrome or arthritis.
• have failed to achieve and maintain weight loss with a supervised weight control programme and have previously been prescribed orlisat sibutramine or rimonabant as weight reducing therapies.
• are not candidates for obesity surgery and have been seen by a healthcare professional such as a nurse, doctor and/or dietitian before being seen by the consultant.
The balloon creates a feeling of fullness and allows you to change your eating pattern, reduce the volume of food eaten and help you feel fuller quicker.
The intra-gastric balloon works best when patients maintain a low calorie diet and close contact with the doctors and nurses caring for them during the time the balloon is in place.
What are the risks?
While most people do not experience any complications at all, you should be aware of the risks:
• Bleeding or perforation can occur as a result of injury during the balloon insertion or removal. This may require surgical intervention.
• Gastric discomfort, nausea and vomiting are common for the first few days following balloon placement but rarely continue in the longer term.
• Feelings of heaviness in the abdomen, abdominal and/or back pain, gastro-oesophageal reflux (where stomach acid leaks out of the stomach) or indigestion have also been reported.
• Should the balloon deflate spontaneously, intestinal obstruction by the balloon may cause further problems. If a partially deflated balloon passes into the small bowel, the balloon will need to be removed. A blue dye in the balloon acts as an early warning system against this unlikely occurrence.
A full list of risks will be explained to you by the doctor undertaking the procedure before you are asked to consent.
You must not have anything to eat or drink on the day of the insertion, so we will give you fluids via your cannula to keep you hydrated.
Following your recovery period, you will be transferred to a ward, where you will remain overnight.
Are there any alternatives to intra-gastric band insertion?
This procedure is usually offered if patients have failed to achieve and maintain weight loss with a supervised weight control program, but patients must have tried diet and exercise therapy before this.
How can I prepare for intra-gastric balloon insertion?
Seven days before the procedure you will be seen by a dietitian to organize and discuss your post-procedure diet.
You must not eat anything for 12 hours before the procedure and you must not drink for 6 hours before the procedure. Tablets may be taken with sips of water only on the morning of the operation.
Insertion is followed by an overnight stay in hospital and you should receive a copy of the information leaflet, Preparing for your stay at St Thomas’. If you do not receive this leaflet, please ask the nurse or doctor caring for you.
Giving my consent (permission)
The staff caring for you may need to ask your permission to perform a particular treatment or investigation.
You will be prescribed:
• acid reducing drugs to combat the gastro-oesophageal reflux and indigestion whilst the balloon is in place
• anti-sickness tablets for a week following insertion
• painkillers such as hyoscine butylbromide (Buscopan®) to reduce spasms in your gut during the week following the insertion.