Those who suffer from morbid obesity look for quick solutions. The use of a gastric balloon promises such a quick solution. However, such a gastric balloon is nothing more than a “crutch” in the treatment of obesity. The obesity experts at Swiss1Chirurgie, the Centre for Bariatric Surgery ZfbC and the Gastroenterology Group Practice Bern know this. In the detailed article, the benefits of bariatric surgery are contrasted with the rapid effects of a gastric balloon. Here is the full report.
The gastric balloon – the best way to cheat yourself?
Why a gastric balloon is the worse alternative to bariatric surgery?
Those who suffer permanently from severe overweight and feel stigmatised by their social environment often look for quick solutions to reduce their body weight. People affected by obesity and the associated concomitant and secondary diseases want effective measures and treatments to change their life situation. The so-called gastric balloon promises such a quick remedy. Without any surgical intervention, without restrictive diets, in the wrong perception and even without a change in exercise behaviour, a quick weight reduction could be achieved with a gastric balloon. But the first impression is just as deceptive as the first successes.
How the gastric balloon works
The gastric balloon is usually inserted into the stomach by means of gastroscopy and filled with a saline solution in the same procedure. Recently, some centres have also been promoting a “swallowable” version – the balloon is swallowed and filled via a tube – without the need for a gastroscopy. This installs a foreign body in the stomach that significantly reduces the stomach volume available for food intake.
As a result, a feeling of satiety is produced even after eating comparatively small amounts of food, but this can be very deceptive. Because of this early onset of satiety, many patients think they can lose weight quickly, easily and permanently with the intragastric balloon without surgery. However, this is often accompanied by complaints such as nausea and frequent vomiting, which indirectly help to lose weight in a rather unpleasant way.
In fact, there are reports that the gastric balloon can be used to lose ten to 25 kilograms over a reasonable period of time. It should be remembered, however, that efficient weight loss attempts are less about quantity and more about the quality of the food. Anyone who consumes very high-calorie drinks, fatty foods or a lot of sugar-heavy food to satisfy their needs after the insertion of a gastric balloon will not automatically achieve success even with the reduced mass. Without a consistent change in diet and exercise, attempts to lose weight are hardly successful in the long term, even with the gastric balloon. Especially since a gastric balloon can only ever be used temporarily.
Self-deception with a system
Experts in the treatment of obesity speak of self-deception with a system when favouring a gastric balloon for weight reduction. After all, such a gastric balloon is a foreign body in the stomach and at best something like a crutch in the treatment of obesity. And a crutch is not a leg on which you can stand safely.
It is also worth considering that the gastric balloon is not a permanent solution. Depending on the quality, such a gastric balloon can remain in the stomach for a maximum of 3, 6 or, more recently, 12 months and must then be removed. Although a new intragastric balloon can be placed immediately, this only continues the actual self-deception.
From the reports of those affected, it can also be learned that in addition to some good successes, a large number of negative experiences can also be registered. This ranges from persistent nausea to spontaneous vomiting to an unpleasant feeling of fullness, which does not contribute to the patients’ well-being. If the intragastric balloon is worn for the recommended maximum period of six months, there is a risk that the balloon will lose the saline solution, which in itself is not tragic. Much more dangerous is that the then flaccid envelope of the balloon can migrate into the intestine and lead to a dangerous intestinal obstruction.
Bariatric surgery is the better methodology
Given the problems associated with the use of a gastric balloon, bariatric surgery is the better option in the vast majority of cases in patients with BMI over 30 kg/m2 with diabetes, or in patients with BMI over 35 kg/m2 without diabetes. The preferred methods are stomach reduction by forming a tube stomach or gastric bypass. Such interventions aim to consistently and permanently reduce the volume of the stomach or to virtually bypass the stomach. Both methods involve surgical procedures, but these are now performed as minimally invasive laporoscopic operations. In addition to the bariatric operations, further therapeutic offers are provided with the aim of achieving and securing long-term success in weight reduction. This means that in the vast majority of cases, surgical intervention is the better, more reliable and permanently more successful way to treat morbid obesity in the long term.
When the use of a gastric balloon can be useful
Even if a gastric balloon does not appear to be a target for long-term weight reduction, it can still be a sensible temporary solution in individual cases. For example, if a surgical intervention is not (yet) an option because of a very high excess weight. Then the gastric balloon can help to achieve a weight reduction that makes surgery possible. But that’s all.
If we consider once again that the intragastric balloon is basically a foreign body that can only be used temporarily and is ultimately only a “crutch” for weight loss, the intragastric balloon is ruled out as a long-term and efficient solution to the problem of obesity.
Counselling ensures best treatment results
Anyone who is confronted with the physical, social and psychological impairments caused by morbid obesity should seek specialist medical advice and professional care. A good place to start may be the Swiss1Chirurgie clinics, the Centre for Bariatric Surgery ZfbC or the Gastroenterology Group Practice in Bern. Here, patients are advised in detail, individually and openly about the chances, risks and possibilities of permanent weight reduction. Obesity experts are always concerned with long-term solutions and less with quick but less reliable success.
In a special consultation at Swiss1Chirurgie, patients also learn in which rather rare cases the temporary use of a gastric balloon in preparation for bariatric surgery can be useful. At the same time, however, it is always made clear that the use of a gastric balloon can never be the permanently helpful solution to a pathological obesity problem.
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