The gastric balloon is a solution proposed for the treatment of severe obesity. Its installation reduces the volume of the stomach, allowing the sensation of satiety to appear more quickly. Food intake is thus reduced, which allows a rapid and significant weight loss.
This treatment is non-surgical, unlike methods such as the adjustable gastric band for example (see our file on this subject).
The “Obalon” balloon
Obalon(2) offers a gastric balloon in capsule form. The capsule releases a gastric balloon, the size of an apple, which inflates at the bottom of the stomach. It includes a miniature catheter(4) that allows rapid inflation of the balloon and easy removal of the catheter. The materials used are designed to respect the gastric environment. The balloon is placed for a period of up to three months. To increase weight loss, it is possible to add two additional balloons, a second balloon thirty days later, and possibly a third(3) another thirty days later. The balloons are removed by deflating them and removing them with a long, thin, flexible tube inserted into the patient’s throat.
One balloon costs about 2420€(1), the price of 2 balloons is decreasing (about 3630€(1)) and 3 balloons cost 4840€(1). A price that will, therefore, remain a brake for many individuals. These prices are those of Spire Healthcare, which are the only establishments currently offering this treatment in the United Kingdom (the first country where this balloon is marketed).
The process has been approved in Europe
Obalon is reserved for people whose body mass index (BMI, calculate yours by clicking here) is greater than 27 and who have failed using traditional weight loss methods (diet, exercise). It is used in conjunction with a diet and an eating behavior modification program.
Figures published following a pre-study by Obalon show a 44.1% loss of excess weight and a 2.1 drop in BMI (study carried out on the European market before approval, on 119 obese people). The average weight loss observed over 3 months is 7.7 kilos, figures observed in England and the United States.
Obalon has the advantage over the traditional gastric balloon of avoiding invasive surgery. No anesthesia is required and the procedure takes about ten minutes. Besides, Obalon retains the inherent benefit of the traditional gastric balloon, namely rapid weight loss over a relatively short period.
Obalon is currently available in the United Kingdom, but only through private channels (via Spire Healthcare(1)).
Risks & side effects
In terms of risks or possible side effects, 1 in 10 patients had problems with indigestion, stomach pain and cramps, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gastric ulcers in particular. There is also a risk of bowel obstruction when deflating the balloon.
Also, a problem of over-inflation at altitudes above 660 meters above sea level has been reported. Although no product failures were reported in this case, Obalon prescribed that the inflation system be stopped immediately. The company is looking for a solution that would allow the balloon to be used at higher altitudes.
Also read: Special diet for constipation and ballooning