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It seems we all realize that obesity is a serious disease which has to be treated but at the same time we tend to underestimate and accept it for fear of being called intolerant.
Of course, we mustn’t discriminate against overweight people, however, we shouldn’t accept obesity, which is a morbid disease that often requires surgical treatment.
According to the OECD-The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development statistics from 2017, in the member countries, more than 1 in 2 adults and 1 in 6 children is overweight
To illustrate the obesity problem, let’s focus on OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), which includes 37 countries (the USA, Australia, Canada, some Asian and Southern American countries and 26 European countries e.g. the UK, Sweden, Ireland, Germany). In the member countries, more than 1 in 2 adults and 1 in 6 children is overweight, as shown in the statistics from 2017.
The good news is that more and more people make a life-changing decision of undergoing weight loss surgery.
There are several procedures available on the market, but in this article, we would love to elaborate on gastric balloon surgery.
Stomach balloon (called intra gastric balloon or orbera balloon – which is the popular brand of gastric balloons) belongs to the non-surgical weight loss procedures. It is also a short-term treatment, but the results are long-lasting of course. The main tool for the procedure is a soft and flexible silicone balloon. Such a deflated balloon pill is put into the stomach endoscopically (alternatively, the balloon can be placed via the food pipe). Once it is inserted, the surgeon inflates the balloon to the size of a grapefruit with the use of saltwater. The stomach is filled in ⅓, so you feel full faster and are able to eat less food.
The whole balloon surgery takes about 30-60 minutes and is done under either general anaesthesia or local anaesthesia with sedation. The time when the balloon can remain in the stomach is limited to either 6 or 12 months because stomach acid tend to damage the balloon material gradually. However, it is enough time to lose much weight and get used to eating smaller portions even without having a balloon inside.
Weight loss balloon is often considered by patients mainly due to its non-surgical character. It is a relatively fast and simple procedure, however, there are some recommendations for having a weight loss balloon.
So, who can have a gastric balloon? The ideal candidate’s BMI is between 27 and 35. In 2010, the intragastric balloon candidacy was extended to overweight people who are not able to lose weight in a regular way (diet and exercises), so if your BMI equals or is slightly lower than 27, you can still be qualified for the balloon. Clearly, people with BMI higher than 35 would rather be qualified for gastric sleeve or bypass. In addition, candidates have to be prepared to change their eating habits and lifestyle permanently and realize that the weight loss is a long process. However, it is relatively frequent that gastric balloon is suggested for extremely obese patients (with BMI over 60) as a preparation for a more complex bariatric surgery. Gastric balloon in this case helps people lose weight quickly, which allows them to have the proper surgery earlier.
Prospective patients may also start considering gastric balloon if:
-they need a fast weight loss before some more complex surgery (either a regular weight loss surgery or other surgery were losing weight simply enables performing it)
-they prefer a non-surgical procedure to lose weight
-they look for a reversible solution
-they want a treatment that is minimally invasive and generally, your daily life isn’t disturbed.
Undoubtedly, each candidate needs to visit a surgeon who makes a decision who qualifies for a gastric balloon. Apart from the BMI, such factors as health condition, any disorders or diseases, psychological approach and readiness for changes are taken into consideration. Also, before the gastric balloon, there is an endoscopic examination performed to see whether the balloon can be inserted safely.
The contraindications for intragastric balloon can be divided into 3 groups.
2. Behaviour and attitude:
3. Other conditions:
Preparation for the procedure starts straight when the patient is qualified for the gastric balloon. A special diet before the surgery must be followed as well
Patients should start the preparations for gastric balloon once they are qualified and decided to undergo the procedure regardless of the procedure date. The preparations at this stage boil down to a gastric balloon diet. Following a balanced diet with 4-5 tiny healthy meals a day and exercising regularly would only escalate the future results and prepare patients for a lifestyle after gastric balloon treatment both physically and mentally.
Regarding the time just before the procedure, patients should not eat any solid food for 12 hours before the procedure. Drinking water is allowed, but a surgeon would possibly ask not to drink for 5-6 hours before the surgery. It is extremely important to follow these recommendations because otherwise the balloon can get displaced. Patients should also organise themselves transportation and assistance just after the procedure (however many clinics offer such a help).
Before we describe the procedure of a balloon in the stomach for weight loss, we need to mention the consent. Before the procedure, patients are encouraged to discuss all the aspects of the balloon including possible risks and complications. Any questions and concerns should be explained before agreeing for the surgery. Once a patient is decided to undergo it, there is a consent form to sign in. There, patients must admit that they realize all the possible side effects, complications that might happen in the future, and most importantly, they give a word, to tell the truth about their health condition. So, we strongly advise everyone to get as much information from the surgeon as possible before making the final decision.
The Orbera stomach balloon procedure takes about 30 minutes, however, sometimes it can reach an hour. Firstly, a patient is anaesthetized and sedated. Before the proper procedure takes place, the stomach specialists examine a patient with an endoscope to see whether the gullet and stomach would tolerate the balloon (e.g. whether there is no inflammation or ulcers).
Traditionally and most frequently, a gastric balloon is inserted into the stomach with an endoscope. This tiny and flexible tube has a special camera and a deflated balloon attached to its end. The tube is put through the mouth and food pipe in the stomach and with the use of a camera, the balloon is placed in the right position. Once placed, the balloon is inflated with the saline (a salt water) so that it fills about 30%-40% of the stomach. Then, the surgeon takes the tube out also through the mouth. After the procedure, patients rest and are under doctor’s observation for a few hours. Patients may feel numbness and soreness in the throat. If they feel pain, it is advisable to ask the doctor for some medications. Patients are usually allowed to leave the clinic the same day, but driving is not allowed for 24 hours. So, they may need an assistance on that day.
Following a gastric balloon diet is extremely important because the stomach needs to adapt to the balloon. The organism finds having a foreign body inside very difficult, so we should not burden it with improper food at the beginning.
Below, we present some guidelines for a stomach balloon diet, but at the same time we stress that everyone must listen to his/her body and if a patient feels that he/she needs diet changes, the surgeon or dietician should be informed about that.
On the procedure day and day after, the patient can only drink small sips of water
On that day, patients can drink only water or suck ice cubes. The maximum amount of water is 50 ml an hour, however drinking everything in one gulp is not recommended, patients should rather sip the water slowly. Also, they should start walking as soon as they can – minimum 200 steps per 1-2 hours. The surgeon would also inform them if there are any gastric tablet or supplements that need to be taken.
Patients should continue drinking clear liquids only. Again, about drinking slowly 50 ml of liquid an hour is recommended. Eating any solid or even soft food at this stage would cause nausea, vomiting or abdominal cramps.
The liquids that can be drunk include clear water, water with fresh herbs or/and citrus fruit, unsugared diluted or squash fruit juice (without pulp), herbal tea, clear soups (e.g. broth), protein water (without milk).
Patients should avoid caffeinated drinks and liquids containing carbs.
If patients feel their body tolerates the allowed liquids, and they are getting better, they can introduce thicker liquids, pulps, purées, blended meals. Remember that firstly only a few spoons are allowed (maximum 3 spoons 5 times a day). They should continue to drink regularly to prevent dehydration.
The allowed food includes: yogurt, puréed vegetables, soups, smoothies, milk, milkshakes, soft oatmeal, protein shakes, unsugared jelly.
Patients need to start to eat cautiously at this stage. Once you stop feeling hungry, you should stop eating. Thanks to that, you will be no longer overfed.
If patients feel well after introducing thick liquids, they can slowly introduce more solid food. They need to observe if chewing or digestion pose any problems and if yes, they should postpone the diet extension for a day or two. Chewing itself is important – each bite must be thoroughly chewed at least 15-20 times before it is swallowed. They should observe their stomach reaction after each newly introduced food, so long breaks between eating new products are recommended. Drinking and eating at the same time is disallowed (there should be at least 1 hour break between eating and drinking). The amount of water per hour might be slowly increased to 70-100 ml.
The accepted food is: cooked vegetables, cooked oatmeal, cottage cheese, low-fat soft cheese, scrambled eggs, avocado, soft peeled fruits, cooked meat or fish, canned fish (e.g. salmon, tuna, mackerel), tofu.
The post gastric balloon diet may contain most types of food. The important thing is to follow a healthy and balanced diet plan after gastric balloon and respect 3 main rules, which are:
If a patient observes having any problems with digesting certain products, such food should be avoided. There are food types that are regarded as difficult to digest and as a result, can glue to the balloon. They include rice, pasta, red meat, bread (dark and white), buns, fast foods, fatty meals, fizzy drinks, and caffeine.
Once patients experience burps, cramps, reflux, vomiting, or nausea, it is advised to stop eating for at least 8 hours, and afterward go on a liquid diet again for 1-2 days. These are usually signs of overeating, eating too fast, not chewing enough, or extending the diet too fast.
As with other bariatric surgeries, weight loss after gastric balloon depends on the individual patient’s will, but the weight may be reduced even by 50%
Gastric balloon weight loss results may be really astonishing, but they depend solely on the patient. First off, a surgeon is obliged to explain the recovery, aftercare, and viable results, so that patients have a clear understanding of their life with the gastric balloon. Following the doctor’s instructions for the recovery period is extremely important – it reduces the risk of complications, allows for a quick return to normal life and daily activities, and enhances weight loss. The gastric balloon belongs to the minimally invasive procedures, so the recovery is quick and painless.
Just after the procedure, patients are taken to the ward to recover and rest under medical observation. The doctor makes sure there is no disturbing pain. Yet, patients should be prepared for some discomfort in the throat and stomach areas (painkillers will help). The time spent in the hospital after the procedure is very short, so if patients feel bad, experience pain resulting from the procedure or anaesthesia, or have any other concerns, they should let the doctor or nurses know to get immediate help. Whether patients leave the clinic on the same day or stay there a night depends on their health condition. If a surgeon gives permission to leave the clinic on the procedure day, patients must remember that driving is forbidden due to alleviating anaesthesia.
Returning to work is usually possible after even 2 days, but we advise to take a week off just because some patients need more time to recover. As for exercising, everyone should start walking on the procedure day, more strenuous exercises can be added even in the first week after the gastric balloon.
Regarding the weight loss results, gastric balloon helps reduce weight by even 50% (up to 15% in the first 6 months). Losing weight is a long process, especially when there are dozens of excessive kilograms, so please be prepared that it can take months or years until the desired weight is reached. However, we guarantee that every gastric balloon patient will change visually and mentally much faster.
Apart from weight loss, gastric balloon eliminates or reduces such conditions as high blood pressure, reflux, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, joint pain, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease).
It is totally normal that there are gastric balloon risks and complications that may occur. In fact, each medical procedure and surgery involves some risk. Any possible side effects and complications should be explained by a surgeon before the procedure (usually, patients need to sign in the consent form where they have detailed risks and possible side effects explanation).
Please, take a look at the potential complications below:
This condition accompanies patients especially during the first days after gastric balloon when the organism gets used to the balloon. For some patients, nausea may turn into a sea-sickness or travel sickness. Usually, after a few days patients feel much better. However, there are cases where it intensifies over time and then, the balloon needs to be deflated and removed.
Due to the stomach stretching caused by the inflated balloon, patients may experience pain that is hard to localise precisely (somewhere in the stomach and back area). Again, once the organism gets used to the balloon, the pain should ease off. If patients still experience such a pain that is hard to pinpoint, they should inform the doctor about it.
The condition of gastric necrosis after having a gastric balloon procedure is extremely rare, yet it may appear many years after the procedure. To prevent this problem, we advise regular follow up appointment with a gastroenterologist and avoiding ulcerogenic food.
It belongs to such intragastric balloon complications that can be avoided if patients follow all the dietary instructions especially during the first 2 weeks after the procedure. Vomiting is usually a sign of eating too much or implementing new food too quickly. Patients may also experience changes in food tolerance and meals that they ate in the past might have to be eliminated now. They just ought to observe themselves and note when vomiting occur (specially control the meals size, experiment with various foods elimination, demark eating and drinking). Also, vomiting can be connected to indigestion, then only specific anti-reflux or indigestion medications would help.
There is a very low risk of balloon rupture, yet it still might happen. Here, the surgeon’s experience does matter, so we urge each patient to make sure they would be in good hands. The balloon is inflated with the salt water until it reaches the ideal size, however, sometimes it gets too big or the pressure is too high. Then, it may rupture inside the stomach (usually it goes through the bowel and is naturally expelled, but sometimes it has to be removed surgically). If patients suspect that the balloon could break, they should contact the doctor immediately.
The endoscopic character of the procedure (during both the insertion and removal of the balloon) may affect the mouth, throat area or food pipe and cause pain, bleeding or feeling of discomfort.
Infection is a possible risk of any medical procedure. To minimize this risk, a patient should make sure that the doctor uses only sterile equipment and the clinic obeys the highest standards of hygiene and safety. Yet, the infection symptoms include: fever, diarrhoea, uncontrolled pain, vomiting.
Nowadays, gastric balloon is placed for 6 months because the acids in the stomach weaken the material of the balloon causing its gradual deflation. There are gastric balloon procedures with 12 month period for the balloon, however they are rare. Instead of placing one balloon for a year, surgeons recommend placing 2 balloons (each for 6 months). To prevent too quick balloon damage, a surgeon may prescribe medications reducing stomach acids.
The gastric balloon removal is performed endoscopically, so patients will know what to expect because placing the balloon is done in the same way. Patients are given anaesthesia and sedation first, so they feel no pain, but breathe on their own throughout the procedure. The surgeon starts with puncturing the balloon and removing saline from its inside, after which the balloon is taken out. The whole procedure should take up to 30 minutes.
We always stress that the removal of the balloon does not imply the end of slimming. After six months of life with a gastric balloon, a new lifestyle, a balanced diet, healthy eating habits, and regular exercise should become second nature to every patient. So, whether with the balloon inside or after its removal, patients need to keep to a healthy lifestyle, then the success is guaranteed.
Gastric balloon is a type of weight loss surgery, so, before discussing the price, we must note that it may be available on NHS. Of course, people cannot come to their GPs and require the balloon on NHS. Firstly, they need to check whether they meet the criteria to undergo the weight loss surgery on NHS, and secondly, contact the surgeon who will decide what type of surgery would work best.
As for the NHS criteria, the main aspect is BMI – it has to reach at least 35, and a gastric balloon is recommended for people with BMI lower than 35, so it is rather difficult to qualify specifically for a gastric balloon on NHS. Some people also look for NHS weight loss pills, however, NHS does not fund such medications.
The truth is that most people get gastric balloon privately, so let’s take a look at gastric balloon cost in the UK.
How much does a gastric balloon cost in each region of the UK?
4475 GBP / 4934 EUR
4349 GBP / 4795 EUR
4420 GBP/ 4873 EUR
The most popular hospital groups in England offer such gastric ballooning cost:
Gastric balloon price is generally lower than other weight-loss surgeries such as gastric sleeve or bypass. However, whilst looking for an affordable gastric balloon cost UK, we advise you to pay attention to what the price includes, specifically:
Please note that the above prices refer to gastric balloon performed endoscopically and the gastric balloon pill cost may be slightly different.
Gastric balloon weight loss surgery abroad has become very popular among British and American patients
Getting gastric balloon abroad has become very frequent among both Americans and Europeans. Such travels to foreign countries for medical treatment is known as medical tourism.
The 21st century has brought the idea of global health care where it is perfectly normal to look for an affordable, safe, and accessible treatment or surgery regardless of the country. Traveling to even distant places is fast, cheap, comfortable, and effortless. More and more often, people choose to travel for gastric balloon surgery abroad not because it is much cheaper, but because the clinics and surgeons there are more competent. What’s also important, patients can get secured for their medical trip, which makes their travel and stay abroad much safer. Clinic Hunter & AXA Partners have created a clinic hunter insurance dedicated solely to medical tourists.
The destinations chosen by medical tourists depend on their home country. E.g. Americans tend to travel to Mexico or Costa Rica for gastric balloon, while Europeans choose Poland, Turkey or Czech Republic.
Please see the average prices for gastric balloon surgery in selected countries.
Poland is regarded as one of the safest and cheapest medical tourism destinations. As a member of the European Union, Poland meets all the highest treatment standards and comply with all the sanitation, technological, and working conditions. The top Polish clinics specialising in weight loss treatment for foreign patients offer the English websites, so accessing all the necessary information about the clinic, surgeons, and care is quite easy.
We also suggest benefiting by medical tourism agencies. In Poland, foreign patients may get a complex service including the gastric balloon Poland organisation as well as flights and hotel booking. Such agencies dedicate an individual assistant to each patient who helps with everything and is a “connector” between the patient and the surgeon. Usually, the service of these agencies is free, so it is worth considering the gastric balloon Poland especially if a patient has many concerns and doubts about the travel. Regarding the tourist attractions, Poland has a wonderful location with mountains, sea, beautiful lakes, and forests. So nature lovers would feel at home there. Also, the main cities where foreign patients come (as Warsaw, Cracow, Wroclaw, or Gdańsk) are rich in history, culture, unique cuisine, tradition, and we are sure people won’t get bored there.
Turkey is one of the most popular destinations for medical tourism. Prices there are much lower compared to other countries and the treatment quality is on a really high level
Similarly to Poland, Turkey is also a popular destination for weight loss surgeries. Gastric balloon Turkey cost is comparable to Poland – so twice or many a time, three times cheaper than in the UK or the USA. However, the main reason why people choose Turkey as a medical destination is considering it as a holiday resort. Turkey is located on two continents, has a perfect climate for holidays, there are both mountains and sea, and culturally it is a cradle of history, tradition, religions, and cultures. So those who look for combining gastric balloon procedure with summer holidays should opt for Turkey. Besides, the clinics and surgeons also meet high standards and offer professional and affordable services.
One of the main concerns about Turkey is safety in the country. Currently, however, there is nothing to worry about as the domestic situation is stable and there are no conflicts active in such cities as Istanbul, Alanya or Antalya.
The gastric balloon is a non-surgical procedure allowing for a safe and fast weight loss by placing a balloon in the stomach. If people feel that they weigh too much and their BMI indicates excess weight or even obesity, we strongly advise everyone to think about this procedure over. Patients who cannot afford it in their country or simply do not want to spend too much on the procedure may benefit from a great opportunity to go abroad for the procedure, especially Poland and Turkey are destinations fully prepared for foreign patients that offer one of the cheapest prices on the international market.
Lastly, we will always promote a healthy lifestyle which positively influences self-esteem, physical and mental health, outward appearance, and many other spheres of life. If you feel you need help to start live healthily, do not hesitate to contact specialists and get a gastric balloon that would set the ball rolling and bring you a happier life.
Bariatric Surgery Source. “Gastric Balloon – 14 Ways It Will Affect You.” Bariatric Surgery Source, Bariatric Surgery Source, LLC, 4 June 2019, www.bariatric-surgery-source.com/gastric-balloon.html.
Birch, Daniel W., et al. “Medical Tourism in Bariatric Surgery.” The American Journal of Surgery, vol. 199, no. 5, 2010, pp. 604–608., doi:10.1016/j.amjsurg.2010.01.002.
“Compare the Cost of Gastric Balloon Abroad.” Compare The Cost Of Obesity Surgery – Gastric Balloon | Treatment Abroad, www.treatmentabroad.com/costs/obesity-surgery/gastric-balloon.
“How Much Does a Private Gastric Balloon Cost in the UK?” Private Healthcare UK, www.privatehealth.co.uk/conditions-and-treatments/gastric-balloon/costs/.
Neto, Manoel Galvao. Intragastric Balloon for Weight Management: a Practical Guide. Springer, 2020.
NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/weight-loss-surgery/.
OECD. Obesity Update 2017, 2017, www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/Obesity-Update-2017.pdf.
“OECD.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OECD.
Klaudia started to work for Clinic Hunter many years ago, just after graduating from the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin in Poland and since that time, this job has become her biggest passion and inspiration.
She has gained necessary expertise and experience by serving patients from all over the world (mainly the UK, Scandinavian countries, and the USA), taking an active part in numerous live and video trainings with clinics in Poland, Hungary and Turkey, participating in international medical tourism conferences and events, and completing internal Clinic Hunter courses. Now, Klaudia is an accomplished patient advisor specialising in such fields as dentistry, plastic and bariatric surgery and hair loss treatment. Her main idea is helping people nad making their lives better, that is why this job brings her so much satisfaction and joy.
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