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What is the Intragastric Balloon

By Alex Barkan, MD FACS


A new, non-surgical weight-loss procedure that takes less than an hour has stirred quite a bit of attention in the weight-loss community. The gastric balloon is a product that was designed as a bridge to help the morbidly obese patients lose enough weight just prior to their scheduled bariatric surgery to make their operations safer. What the manufacturers noticed was that many of the patients did very well. Now they are offering it to nonsurgical patients with the hopes that the patients with lower body mass indexes can lose weight with the placement of the balloon, and then keep the lifestyle changes in place after the balloon is removed. The key is you must change your lifestyle and then keep up the healthy lifestyle to keep the weight off.  If you can do that, the balloon may be a good treatment option for you.


How does it work? Simply put, it takes up space in the stomach to make you feel full. There are different manufacturers, and alternative forms of the balloon. Providers have chosen different types of balloons to implant based on their research. Some use saline which are heavier, but in some cases can perforate in the stomach. Others are full of air. These are lighter, but it can be more difficult to know when they have an issue. Monthly x-rays are sometimes necessary to evaluate the balloon and its position. 


It is most important that you are part of a comprehensive program that can help to support you in your weight loss journey. You can expect a 7-15% body weight loss overall depending on your ability to exercise and to conform to the dietary changes required. Remember, the balloon will not stop the calories you take in when you drink sugary beverages or alcohol. Understand that like any other diet and weight loss program, the more effort you put in the greater the results you will see at the end.