Gastric balloon pill: operation, weight loss, and removal

A gastric balloon pill is a capsule made of silicone rubber or thin expandable plastic that helps lose weight. The pill operation has a non-surgical and a non-endoscopic approach. It is a great treatment option for those who do not wish to undergo organ reattaching procedures. It is simply a swallowable pill that expands in your stomach and lasts for a certain period of time. 

It is unique for its own mechanism, types, ways to prepare for it, and ways to get rid of it from your system after when the balloon expires.

Let’s get to know about how the pill works, the benefits, and more you might want to know.

What is a gastric balloon pill?

Gastric balloon pill is a therapy to lose weight for patients who struggle to achieve weight loss goals. It is also a great way to lose weight for those who are afraid to undergo bariatric surgery, swallowable gastric balloon is a non-surgical and non-endoscopic approach for weight loss therapy. 

The pill is basically a compressed balloon that you can swallow which allows you to lose weight and it aims for patients that have a BMI greater than 27. However, based on the goal you have for excess weight loss, you will receive a pill that has a specific duration for it.

gastric balloon pill

How does it work?: the science behind it

A gastric balloon pill is a compressed box made out of either silicon or a specific type of plastic that helps to stretch. There are 2 types for it which are either filled with air/nitrogen or saline solution which comes in the form of liquid. So, you swallow the gastric ill balloon which is attached to a small tube, once it is in your stomach then it is filled with either saline solution or air. And of course, you’re sedated to ease up the process on you and your doctor.

Post-op you will feel immediate fullness due to filling a portion of the void in the stomach. That allows you to feel full after small portions of the meal, leading to weight loss.

How much weight can you lose?

Generally, balloons are used to lose a small amount of body mass, the average weight loss is between 10%-30%. That is also based on the diet and exercise plan consistency in commitment throughout your journey after balloon placement. Let’s say a patient is 130KG/286 pounds and used a 1-year gastric balloon, they are able to lose up to 35KG/80 pounds. Meaning, they can be 95 kg/205 pounds in 12 months with a gastric balloon pill.

If the patient aims to lose less weight, then they should choose a 6-4 month balloon but it’s determined by their BMI. Aside from your attributes guidelines given by your healthcare provider, the duration of the balloon placement plays a major role in how much weight you can possibly lose.

How long does it stay?

The devices differ in terms of material, brands, and more, and one of the purposes is that they differ in the duration of their placement in your stomach. Here it explains how much weight you can lose based on duration:

  • 4-month placement= 10%-15% 
  • 6-month placement= 15%-20%
  • 12-month placement= 20%-30%

The choice of deciding which type of balloon is in your hands, but the options listed are limited after when you’re examined and evaluated. Your doctor will also help you with decision-making by sharing the pros and cons of each one you choose based on the studies he made on your personal case.

What are the upsides and downsides of gastric balloon pill?

This device is not meant for everyone because it serves less than major bariatric surgeons. On the other hand, it is quite handy and very easy to deal with.

Here are the upsides of balloon pills:

  1. The process is not surgical and doesn’t need organ rearrangement or anesthesia for placement. It is simply a swallowable capsule.
  2.  Unlike bariatric procedures, balloon capsules require no hospital stays of more than a few hours. You can walk out of the facility with no healing periods.
  3. An affordable option for weight loss and requires less legibility to be qualified. The expenses are way less than surgical procedures.

Here are the downsides of balloon pills:

  1. There is limited weight loss effectiveness and reduction of body mass. 
  2. There is a chance of feeling discomfort, such as nauseous, vomiting, or gagging while trying to deal with the swallowable capsule.
  3. The balloon pill does not change the digestive functionality, it is a manipulation to feel full after small portions of food. There is a risk of weight gain after its removal if the diet and exercise plans are avoided.

Keep in mind you can keep those cons in a box away from you if both you and your healthcare team cooperate together and follow the guidelines accordingly. 

Who can get a gastric balloon pill?

Gastric balloon pills are for those who want to lose a fraction amount of their body weight but you also need to qualify for them, fortunately, it is not that complicated. You need to be at least 18 years old with BMI over 27 and not planning to be pregnant or during pregnancy. Also, your esophageal area and stomach should be in a healthy condition or have not undergone surgery previously. 

Gastric balloon pills are for those who Other than BMI qualification also need mental readiness and commitment and accept lifestyle interventions that would benefit their health. For that sort of evaluation and motivational boost, it is established by your psychiatrist. Therefore it will help you to co-op with your healthcare team to achieve your weight loss goals.

Do you need a prescription?

Yes, this device is not something that is found on pharmacy shelves that you can simply get any day. This is an intragastric balloon that needs a professional assessment in a medical facility. However, the prescription can be received by your doctor after checking your overall health background, BMI, and medical history. 

Prescription is earned after consultation, examination, solution discussion and finally making sure you’re acknowledged about guidelines and follow-up visits.

Where can I buy a gastric balloon pill?

You can’t buy gastric balloon pill online or locally, this device isn’t simply handed to patients, it’s a complex item. This item needs medical assistance, during Intragastric balloon placement, expanding the pill with a filling tube and medications. 

There are regulations to be able to get this item and it comes in the form of a prescription. Because you will get examined physically and psychologically for evaluation. Therefore simply consult your healthcare provider and they shall tend to serve your needs. There is a protocol to follow to see if you’re a qualified candidate, after that you can have the pill with medical supervision.

Do I need follow-ups with a doctor?

Although it is considered the least invasive approach for weight loss unlike abdominal surgeries, you still need to attend follow-up visits with your doctor. The most obvious reason for a revisit is the balloon removal but there is more to that manner.

After a week, month, or longer period of time, you need to keep up with your doctor and acknowledge them with your overall experience. You can review your weight loss progress, in conjunction with diet, exercise habits, and most importantly any sort of complications. Based on the information you share with them, it will help them to give feedback to you. It is important to be monitored to maintain safety and prevention of slowing obstacles in your weight loss journey.

How to prepare for balloon pill procedure

From day one after consultation and evaluation, there are a few tests needed such as blood tests, image studies, and endoscopy if necessary. You may also have to follow a pre-op balanced diet which may include limited portions, soft foods, or liquid diets. The days of the pre-op diet will be specified for you based on your personal case.

Intragastric balloon procedure also requires you to have an empty stomach, therefore you will have to fast overnight and visit your doctor before your initial meal. In some cases, it may also require anesthesia during the placement, therefore it’s best to accompany a family member to bring you back home safely.

How to remove the balloon pill

There are two ways to get rid of the device from your stomach and that determines based on the time of the balloon itself. Some of them are removed endoscopically and some of them come out naturally when their time expires.

Endoscopic removal has different techniques, but they share a common item which is a flexible tube. The tube has a light, camera, and deflating needle or syringe. Based on the type of balloon substance it will be either drained in your stomach walls or sucked. 

The ones that come out naturally are basically balloons that deflate after when their estimated period of time finishes. It does not require any visit to the doctor for endoscopy because it gets out of your body through digesting it. 

Here are the types of balloons removed endoscopically:

  • Obalon gastric balloon pill
  • Reshape gastric balloon pill

Here are the types of balloons that come out naturally:

  • Obalon gastric balloon pill
  • Allurion gastric balloon pill/Allurion Elipse balloon

To avoid confusion, there are two types of Obalon pills, they differ in periods of use and ways to be put out of your system. Other than that, you don’t have to worry about the types itself, your doctor will diagnose what is best for you to improve your health status.

Ienca R, Giardiello C, Scozzarro A, et al. Improving Nausea and Vomiting Post-Elipse Balloon: a Novel Single-Dose Regimen of 300 mg Netupitant/0.5 mg Palonosetron Hydrochloride. Obes Surg. 2019;29(9):2952-2956. doi:10.1007/s11695-019-03937-x

Chan, D.L., Cruz, J.R., Mui, W.L. et al. Outcomes with Intra-gastric Balloon Therapy in BMI < 35 Non-morbid Obesity: 10-Year Follow-Up Study of an RCT. OBES SURG 31, 781–786

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