Non-surgical weight loss: complete guide to gastric balloons

Published on: May 11, 2023

Table of Contents

Understanding Gastric Balloons: A Comprehensive Guide to Non-Surgical Weight Loss


Gastric balloons have emerged as a promising tool for seeking significant weight loss without surgery. In the face of the escalating obesity epidemic, non-surgical weight loss options are becoming effective alternatives to invasive procedures. One such innovative approach is the use of gastric balloons. This comprehensive guide aims to thoroughly understand gastric balloons, their mechanism of action, placement procedures, living with a gastric balloon, weight loss expectations, and comparisons with other weight loss interventions.

Obesity, a complex medical condition, has reached alarming levels globally, contributing to numerous health complications such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers. The demand for effective weight loss interventions has grown substantially [1]. Gastric balloons offer a non-surgical option that helps individuals achieve substantial weight loss by reducing the stomach’s capacity and promoting feelings of satiety [2].

Understanding the role of gastric balloons

Procedure, candidates, and weight loss outcomes

This guide will give readers insights into the different types of gastric balloons available, the placement procedure, and the adjustments necessary for successful weight loss—the potential candidates for gastric balloons, including eligibility criteria and contraindications. The article will also shed light on the expected weight loss outcomes, comparison with surgical and non-surgical methods, and long-term weight management strategies post-removal.

Individuals need to be well informed before making any decisions regarding weight-loss interventions. Comprehensive overview of gastric balloons, this guide aims to empower readers with the knowledge necessary to make informed choices about their weight loss journey.

What are gastric balloons?

Gastric balloons are non-surgical devices designed to assist in weight loss by occupying space within the stomach, reducing its capacity and promoting satiety. These inflatable balloons are inserted into the abdomen through minimally invasive procedures, providing a temporary solution to help individuals achieve significant weight loss [1].

Different types of gastric balloons are available in the market, each with its design and characteristics. Some balloons are filled with saline solution, while others are filled with gas or air. The choice of balloon type depends on factors such as patient preference, medical history, and the recommendations of healthcare professionals [2]. The most commonly used gastric balloons include the Orbera Intragastric Balloon, Obalon Balloon System, and ReShape Integrated Dual Balloon [3].

The mechanism of action behind gastric balloons involves several factors.

By occupying space within the stomach, the balloons feel full, leading to reduced food intake. The presence of the balloon also affects the stomach’s motility, potentially influencing hunger and satiety hormones [4]. Gastric balloons can serve as a tool to modify eating behaviours and promote lifestyle changes, as individuals need to adopt a modified diet and incorporate regular physical activity for optimal weight loss outcomes [5].

Before considering gastric balloon placement, it is crucial to determine if an individual is eligible for the procedure. Factors such as body mass index (BMI), overall health, and certain medical conditions are considered to assess suitability for gastric balloon intervention [6]. A thorough evaluation by healthcare professionals is necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the procedure.

The placement procedure of gastric balloon

Placing a gastric balloon is a minimally invasive procedure that typically does not require general anaesthesia or hospitalisation. Before the placement, individuals undergo a thorough evaluation to ensure they meet the eligibility criteria and assess their overall health. This evaluation may involve medical examinations, laboratory tests, and imaging studies [1].

A gastroenterologist or bariatric specialist usually performs the placement procedure in an endoscopy suite or outpatient facility. The patient is positioned comfortably, and sedation or local anaesthesia may be administered to minimise discomfort or anxiety [2].

Procedure,  gastric balloon through the oesophagus using an endoscope. 

The endoscope is a flexible tube with a light and camera attached, allowing the physician to visualise the placement process on a monitor. Once the balloon reaches the desired position in the stomach, it is inflated with a saline solution, gas, or air. The inflated balloon occupies space within the stomach, creating a feeling of fullness [3].

The duration of the placement procedure is typically around 20 to 30 minutes [4]. After the procedure, individuals are monitored briefly to ensure no immediate complications or adverse reactions. Most patients can return home on the same day and resume normal activities within a day or two, although specific recovery instructions may vary [2].

It is important to note that the placement of a gastric balloon carries potential risks and complications, although they are generally rare. These may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, balloon deflation, oesophagal irritation, and gastric ulceration [5]. Individuals must follow post-placement guidelines provided by their healthcare team to minimise these risks and optimise their weight loss journey.

Living with a gastric balloon

Living with a gastric balloon involves adapting to the device’s presence in the stomach and making lifestyle changes to support weight loss. Individuals need to understand the dietary modifications, physical activity recommendations, and potential side effects of having a gastric balloon.

One of the critical aspects of living with a gastric balloon is changing dietary habits and nutrition. Patients are typically advised to follow a structured meal plan, including consuming smaller portions, choosing nutrient-dense foods, and avoiding high-calorie or high-fat items. It is crucial to work closely with a registered dietitian or nutritionist who can provide guidance and support in developing a balanced and sustainable eating plan [1].

Regular physical activity is also integral to living with a gastric balloon. 

Engaging in regular exercise not only aids in weight loss but also promotes overall health and well-being. Incorporating a combination of aerobic activities, strength training, and flexibility exercises into one’s routine is recommended. The specific exercise regimen should be tailored to an individual’s fitness level and preferences, and it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or fitness expert to develop a suitable exercise plan [2].

While gastric balloons are generally well-tolerated, some individuals may experience side effects such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, or a feeling of fullness. These side effects are typically temporary and diminish as the body adjusts to the presence of the balloon. Communicating any concerns or persistent symptoms to the healthcare team is essential to ensure appropriate management and support [3].

Regular follow-up visits with the healthcare team during the time of the gastric balloon.

These visits allow for monitoring of weight loss progress, assessing any complications or concerns, and adjusting the treatment plan if necessary. It is essential to attend these appointments and actively participate in managing the gastric balloon [4].

Living with a gastric balloon requires commitment, discipline, and a willingness to embrace a healthier lifestyle. By following the recommended dietary and physical activity guidelines, individuals can maximise the benefits of the gastric balloon and achieve sustainable weight loss.

Weight loss expectations and results of gastric balloon

Weight loss expectations with a gastric balloon can vary depending on factors such as starting weight, adherence to dietary and lifestyle modifications, and overall commitment to the program. Having realistic expectations and understanding that gastric balloons are not a standalone solution but a tool to assist in weight loss efforts is essential.

Research studies have shown that individuals with gastric balloons can achieve significant weight loss. In a clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of gastric balloons, participants experienced an average weight loss of approximately 10-15% of their initial body weight [1]. However, it is essential to note that individual results may vary, and the actual weight loss achieved depends on various factors.

Weight loss outcomes with gastric balloons

Factors include patient compliance, behavioural changes, and ongoing support from healthcare professionals. Adherence to the recommended dietary guidelines, portion control, regular physical activity, and attendance at follow-up visits are crucial for achieving optimal weight loss results. The level of commitment and willingness to make sustainable lifestyle changes significantly impact the success of gastric balloon treatment [2].

It is essential to have realistic expectations regarding the duration of weight loss. The gastric balloon is typically left in place for a limited period, ranging from several months to a maximum of one year, depending on the specific balloon type. During this time, individuals can experience significant weight loss. Still, it is essential to understand that maintaining the weight loss achieved after balloon removal requires continued dedication to a healthy lifestyle and long-term behaviour modifications [3].

Health benefits of gastric balloons for sustainable weight

It is worth noting that gastric balloons can also provide psychological benefits by improving self-esteem, body image, and overall quality of life [4]. Weight loss achieved with gastric balloons can improve obesity-related health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and sleep apnea [5].

By understanding the potential weight loss outcomes, setting realistic goals, and embracing a comprehensive approach to lifestyle changes, individuals can maximise the benefits of gastric balloons and achieve meaningful and sustainable weight loss.

Integrating behavioral therapy with other approaches

When considering weight loss interventions, such as gastric balloons, it is essential to recognise the value of integrating behavioural therapy with other approaches. Behavioural therapy focuses on identifying and modifying behaviours and thought patterns contributing to weight gain and hindering long-term weight loss success. Combining behavioural therapy with gastric balloons, individuals can enhance their weight loss outcomes and improve their overall relationship with food and lifestyle choices.

Behavioural therapy techniques commonly incorporated into weight loss programs include cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and mindfulness-based strategies. These approaches address psychological factors, emotional eating, and problematic behaviours associated with food and self-image [1]. Individuals can develop healthier coping mechanisms, improve self-awareness, and foster long-term behaviour change by targeting these underlying issues.

A comprehensive approach addresses the multifaceted nature of weight management.

Incorporating behavioural therapy alongside gastric balloon treatment can provide individuals with the tools and support to make sustainable lifestyle changes. Behavioural therapy sessions, either individual or group-based, can help individuals set realistic goals, identify triggers and barriers to weight loss, and develop strategies to overcome challenges [2].  Promotes lasting changes in eating habits, physical activity, and overall well-being.

Research has demonstrated the positive impact of integrating behavioural therapy with other weight loss interventions. Studies have shown that combining behavioural therapy with gastric balloons leads to more significant weight loss, improved weight maintenance, and enhanced psychological well-being than interventions without behavioural components [3]. The synergistic effect of addressing both physiological and psychological aspects of weight loss increases the likelihood of sustainable results and improved quality of life.

By integrating behavioural therapy with gastric balloons, individuals can enhance their weight loss journey, strengthen their self-efficacy, and develop healthier relationships with food and their bodies.

Frequently questions about gastric balloons

Are gastric balloons a suitable option for everyone?

Gastric balloons are typically recommended for individuals with a BMI of 30 or higher and who have not achieved sufficient weight loss through diet and exercise alone. However, eligibility criteria may vary depending on overall health, medical history, and specific balloon types [1].

How long does the gastric balloon remain in place?

The duration of gastric balloon placement varies depending on the type of balloon used. Typically, balloons are left in the stomach for several months, ranging from six months to one year. The healthcare team will determine the optimal duration based on individual needs and weight loss goals [2].

What happens after the gastric balloon is removed?

Once the gastric balloon is removed, individuals are advised to continue a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular physical activity, to lose weight. The healthcare team will guide post-removal dietary recommendations and ongoing support [3].

What are the potential risks and complications associated with gastric balloons?

Although complications are rare, gastric balloons can be associated with side effects such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and balloon deflation. More severe complications, such as gastric ulceration or bowel obstruction, may occur in rare cases. Discussing potential risks with the healthcare team and promptly reporting any concerning symptoms is essential [4].

Will I regain weight after the gastric balloon is removed?

Weight maintenance after gastric balloon removal requires a long-term commitment to a healthy lifestyle. While some weight regain is possible, studies have shown that individuals who adopt permanent changes in eating habits and physical activity can maintain a significant portion of their weight loss [5].

When considering gastric balloons, consulting with healthcare professionals to address individual concerns, assess eligibility, and receive personalised advice based on specific circumstances is crucial.


In pursuing non-surgical weight loss options, gastric balloons have emerged as a promising tool for individuals struggling with obesity. This guide has provided valuable insights into gastric balloons, covering their definition, types, placement procedures, living with a gastric balloon, weight loss expectations, and comparisons with other weight loss interventions.

 It requires individuals to embrace lifestyle changes, such as adopting healthier eating habits and engaging in regular physical activity. Integrating behavioural therapy alongside gastric balloon treatment can further enhance the effectiveness of the intervention by addressing underlying psychological factors and promoting sustainable behaviour change.

While gastric balloons offer a temporary solution, it is essential to approach their use as part of a comprehensive weight management plan. Post-removal, individuals must maintain a healthy lifestyle to sustain weight loss and prevent weight regain.

Individuals considering gastric balloons can make informed decisions and actively participate in their weight loss journey by arming themselves with knowledge. It is essential to consult with healthcare professionals who can provide personalised advice based on individual circumstances and guide individuals towards achieving their weight loss goals.

With the proper support, commitment, and dedication to lifestyle modifications, gastric balloons can be a valuable tool in pursuing non-surgical weight loss and improved overall well-being.


  1. Genco, A., Bruni, T., Doldi, S., & Forestieri, P. (2002). BioEnterics Intragastric Balloon: The Italian Experience with 2,515 Patients. Obesity Surgery, 12(5), 634-638.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16197790/ 
  2. Machytka, E., Gaur, S., Chuttani, R., Bojkova, M., Klvana, P., Buzga, M., . . . Foltys, A. (2019). Elipse, the First Procedureless Gastric Balloon for Weight Loss: A Prospective, Observational, Multicenter Study. Endoscopy, 51(9), 825-832..https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27951610/
  3. Courcoulas, A. P., Belle, S. H., Neiberg, R. H., Pierson, S. K., Eagleton, J. K., Kalarchian, M. A., . . . Jakicic, J. M. (2015). Three-Year Outcomes of Bariatric Surgery vs Lifestyle Intervention for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Treatment. JAMA Surgery, 152(5), 452-459. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26132586/
  4. ASGE. (2015). ASGE Bariatric Endoscopy Task Force Systematic Review and Meta-analysis Assessing the ASGE PIVI Thresholds for Adopting Endoscopic Bariatric Therapies. Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, 85(3).https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26232362/
  5. Wadden, T. A., Butryn, M. L., & Byrne, K. J. (2004). Efficacy of Lifestyle Modification for Long-Term Weight Control. Obesity Research, 12(S12).https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15687411/

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