Gastric balloon removal: procedure, price, timing, and details

After 6 months or 12 months, depending on the type, a gastric balloon removal procedure is necessary. This surgery is not a permanent one, it is temporary. And if the same gastric balloon stays in the stomach more than it was intended, it will be highly risky.

A gastric balloon removal may cost extra as it does not come in a package with insertion. In those cases, the patient might need to handle their finances even before getting a gastric balloon insertion surgery.

After removal, you will continue your journey with new eating habits, and new lifestyle. Maintaining your weight loss will be much easier now that you have adjusted. However, that may not always be the case. And a patient might need a second gastric balloon procedure. 

Let us begin with why, when, and how to remove the gastric balloon and what to do afterward.

How is the gastric balloon removed?

So, when the balloon is inserted it is deflated. How is gastric balloon removed then? Well, it is simple. Imagine doing it backward as it is very similar to inserting. First, you will be given mild sedatives or the surgeon will use a local anesthetic spray or light sedation. Then your surgeon will insert an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached to it)  in your mouth into your stomach. After the endoscope is placed, your surgeon will extract the saline solution of the air so that the balloon will be deflated. After it has been emptied, the balloon will be removed from your stomach through your mouth.

This entire procedure takes about 15-30 minutes. You will be required to wait for a few hours for observation. After that, you are free to continue your daily life.

Do you really need to get your balloon removed?

Yes, you absolutely need to get your balloon removed. Gastric balloons are designed to be temporary. If they are not removed, the patient can experience some complications. For instance, the balloon can rupture inside the stomach if it stays longer than it was intended to, releasing its content. It will also be deflated, and the stomach will try to pass it to the small intestine. That can disrupt and harm the stomach lining, esophagus, and the gastrointestinal tract. These damages can later cause ulcers, inflammation, and erosion.

So, it is important to get your intragastric balloon procedure in time. This way, you can avoid the risks of complications. This can also help your digestive system to return to its normal state. To keep yourself away from these adverse effects, make sure you set an alarm for the date. If you wish to have a longer-lasting balloon, you can have a Spatz3 gastric balloon or you can get another gastric balloon surgery after a while.

When is the right time for balloon removal?

The right time for a gastric balloon removal is usually in your 6th or 12th month, depending on which type of gastric balloon you have. If you have Spatz3 gastric balloon, your removal will be due in your 12th month. But, if it is a traditional intragastric balloon, your due date for removal will be in your 6th month.

However, if there are other underlying circumstances, such as certain side effects and the stomach rejecting the balloon, it should be removed immediately to avoid possible risks and complications.

How much should you budget for the removal surgery?

In some cases, gastric balloon removal costs are included in the insertion cost. However, that may not be the case for every clinic or hospital depending on which countries, states, or cities these clinics are in. So, you might pay extra for a removal procedure.

A gastric balloon removal cost varies from country to country. It can cost from 1.500$ to 8.000$ depending on where you had the removal surgery. So, before you consider a gastric balloon, you should talk about the price of the removal of gastric balloon beforehand so that you can be well-prepared.

Tips on simplifying the payment process

Unfortunately, insurance companies do not cover gastric balloons or their removal yet. However, there are various methods you can try. You can:

  • Start saving up early
  • Use your credit card – if you have enough limit
  • Get a loan from the bank

If you start saving up early, you can make your payment in full and will not have to pay more afterward. However, that may not be always the case. In those cases, you can use your credit card. If you have enough limits on your credit card, you can pay with it and pay your debt monthly. Banks usually help their clients pay a certain amount monthly for their credit card debts. This can be either 20% or 40% of their total debt. This way, you can ease your finances.

Last but not least, you can get a loan from your bank. Depending on how many months you plan to pay (2, 6, … months) they will add taxes or interest. With that added, you will actually pay more. But you can control your monthly payments this way. And that can help you simplify your payment.

Navigating the side effects of balloon removal

You might experience some side effects after the endoscopic removal, which are normal and temporary. Let’s examine these side effects after balloon removal.

Discomfort and pain: It is pretty common to experience abdominal discomfort or pain after gastric balloon removal. It is usually mild and temporary, and it can be managed via painkillers easily.

Nausea and vomiting: Although not very common, this side effect can be observed in some patients. It usually fades away gradually. However, if it does not and it gets worse, it is mindful to consult your surgeon.

Difficulty swallowing: After the removal procedure, it is normal to have difficulty swallowing. This can be due to mild damage the removal has caused or the sedative. It will subside and eventually pass.

Acid reflux and heartburn: It has been observed that some patients have experienced this side effect after the removal. To manage this side effect, the patient can use antiacids. Also, sleeping with 2 pillows can help too, if your pillow is too low, which is lower than 4-6 inches.

These gastric balloon removal side effects will fade away in time after the removal. It can take a couple of weeks, which is why it can be wise to take precautions. If the patient does experience these side effects and they get worse instead of better, the patient should immediately consult their surgeon.

What do you need to do to avoid side effects?

The most important thing to do would be to keep continuing the dietary guidelines you have been given by your dietitian. Those guidelines are specially tailored for these procedures so that the side effects are avoidable or easily manageable. These dietary guidelines also include proper hydration and balanced diet and portion control. Following these can help you avoid these side effects greatly.

After the removal, your stomach might need some more time to adjust to its absence. So, again, you need to go easy on your stomach. You can start with soft food and gradually move on to solid food. This will help your stomach have an easier time to start tolerating food.

Also, your surgeon might prescribe you some medicines after the removal. Using them accordingly can also help you avoid or manage them.

How to maintain weight loss after the removal surgery

There is a key point to maintaining long-term weight loss after a gastric balloon removal procedure: patience and persistence. This maintenance is a lifelong journey. At some point, you might go through some rough patches, but it is important to keep patient and persistent. Because at this point on, you should take control.

Other tips to maintain your weight loss can be, of course, staying loyal to your guidelines. This does not only include a dietary guideline but also keeping yourself physically active will help you greatly in this matter. Because this procedure teaches you to stop eating once you start feeling full. And after the removal, your stomach will be much smaller, so you will feel full faster. There are also two golden rules:

1- Never drink any beverages with your meal

2- Never drink carbonated beverages.

These rules will help you keep the new size of your stomach. If you do not mind these rules, your stomach can enlarge, and after a weight loss procedure, that is the last thing anyone would like.

Tracking your progress can be a huge motivator. However, it is recommended that you do that either once every two weeks or once a month. If you try to track your progress too often, you might see slight changes, which can be discouraging. If you set smaller goals, such as losing 5 or 10 pounds, you will actually motivate yourself to go further. The change will come at its own pace, be patient.

Is it possible to get another balloon after removal?

Yes, it is possible to get another gastric balloon after it has been removed. Some patients might ask for it for further weight loss or their first attempt may have gone wrong and they have regained weight after the removal.

The consultation for the second time may take longer, as a more thorough evaluation will be necessary. Before deciding to have a gastric balloon procedure again, the patient should consider their capability of adapting to lifestyle changes. If they show to have the ability to commit to that and also there aren’t any health issues that can compromise the patient’s health after a second gastric balloon surgery, they can get another balloon.

It is absolutely important to consult with your previous surgeon about this matter as prolonged usage of gastric balloons can have more risks of side effects. And these side effects might require early removal. So, it wouldn’t be cost-efficient, and it can affect the patient’s health negatively.

Long-term multiple intragastric balloon treatment—a new strategy to treat morbid obese patients refusing surgery: Prospective 6-year follow-up study. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases. 2014;10(2):307-311.

Reymunde A, Santiago N. Eight Minute Technique for Orbera Gastric Balloon Removal: 819. Official journal of the American College of Gastroenterology | ACG. 2017;112:S459.

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