In this blog, I’m going to answer some of the key questions that come up in my discussions with patients who are considering the Allurion swallowable gastric balloon.
Our clinic only does this kind of balloon and NOT the one where you need and Endoscopy. I will encourage you to read my earlier blog where I have addressed this NEW procedure and what are the costs of the same. You can read here.
1. Is Gastric Balloon a safe procedure to have?
The Allurion swallowable gastric balloon is a relatively new procedure. As of date approximately 100,000 balloons have been placed across the globe. The FDA in US has not approved this balloon as yet however it has become wildly popular in Europe, South America and Middle East. There are several advantages of this balloon with the most important one being that there is no need for endoscopy, surgery or anaesthesia in placing this balloon. This has a significant appeal for many people who may understandably, have fear of complications from surgery. The other advantage is that this balloon is temporary and passes out naturally in four months time.
However just like anything else there are risks that you need to know about. These are predominantly associated with nausea, vomiting, cramps and significant reflux. Most of these side effects can be managed with medications that are quite effective. Some rare complications are the balloon causing perforation or creating a blockage in the small bowel. No deaths have been reported with the gastric balloon to the best of my knowledge.
Overall the procedure is reasonably safe for most of the people as long as the side effects are managed promptly.
I encourage, every patient to work with a specialist dietitian to achieve the best possible weight loss result that will last long term. Your consultant will offer you the best possible advice regarding the side effects of the weight loss balloon and how best to manage them.
2. Does Medicare pay for Gastric Balloon?
The gastric balloon procedure involves swallowing a capsule that is then inflated to the size of a grapefruit with the volume of 550 mls. The company also provides a smart scale and a health tracker along with the balloon, which allows your health professionals and dietitian to monitor your progress.
This procedure does not require hospitalisation. The Gastric Balloon is not covered by private health insurance or Medicare in Australia. There have been some reports of patients accessing their super for placement of the balloon, however it is best to discuss this with your specialist as it is assessed on a case by case basis.
3. Do Gastric Balloons work ?
Gastric balloons are an alternative to weight loss surgery, especially when the individual’s BMI is not that high and medical problems have not begun to creep in. If your BMI is between 27- 35 and you need to lose only about 10 -15 kilograms of weight then a gastric balloon maybe a good option to consider. Losing just 10 kilos can have a significant benefit on the management of diabetes, if you have been on diabetic medications.
More importantly, the gastric balloon helps you in controlling your portion by two main mechanisms:
A. Firstly the balloon restricts the portion of the food that you consume by making you feel full quicker. This is because it occupies a significant amount of space in your stomach all the time.
B. The other important mechanism of action is called Delayed Gastric Emptying. Gastric balloons will increase the time that it takes for your stomach to empty itself off the food. This causes the food to stay longer in your stomach reducing the need for grazing in between meals.
When these methods are combined with a supervised programme with the assistance of medical and allied health professionals along with your commitment, it will certainly prove to be very effective. You can watch the below video to hear the experience of one of the patients.
4. Can I have a Gastric Balloon after Gastric Sleeve
Gastric sleeve surgery significantly alters the shape of your stomach. In gastric sleeve surgery about 60 to 70% of the stomach is removed and the stomach is converted into a long tube. Some people can regain the weight after gastric sleeve surgery and may look for alternatives.
A gastric balloon is certainly not an option after the gastric sleeve surgery as it does not conform to the shape of the gastric sleeve.
It is best to discuss the options with your specialist as weight regain after gastric sleeve surgery might require revisional surgery in certain instances. This also requires extensive dietary and psychological assessments besides investigations.
5. Can you get a gastric balloon more than once?
The Allurion gastric balloon stays in the stomach for 16 weeks. After this it releases the fluid and passes naturally. Some individuals who are wishing to achieve greater than 10 to 15 kilograms of weight loss can have a second balloon after giving a gap of 8 to 12 weeks. This is called sequential therapy. It is best to discuss with your specialist on the appropriateness of this. Your specialist may also include use of some medications such as Saxenda which might assist with weight loss, besides dietary management
If you have been thinking about shedding those extra kilos but have been waiting to do it in a gentle and least invasive manner, this is a great option to consider.
Please feel free to download Dr Arun’s free eBook
“Your Weight is over”
Discover 5 strategies to lasting transformation with the Allurion Gastric balloon.