Despite being non-invasive, this procedure is not without its risks. The procedure itself can be distressing and painful, and the first few days after aren't easy. You'll be expected to attend a formal consultation with your surgeon to discuss your medical history and the nature of your weight problem. All of the possible side-effects and risks will be explained to you, and you'll be given the opportunity to ask questions.
Your surgeon will discuss your anaesthesia and pain-relief options with you during the initial consultation. Most patients are given a local anaesthetic in the form of a throat spray. However, you may also be offered sedation to keep you calm and still during what can be a distressing procedure.
The insertion of a gastric balloon begins with a full inspection of the upper digestive tract with an endoscope (a small camera that is guided slowly down the throat). The surgeon is looking for abnormalities that might make the insertion of the balloon dangerous, such as a hiatus hernia, an ulcer or signs of scarring from previous surgery. Once the endoscopy has been completed and no signs of abnormalities have been found, a collapsed balloon is placed on the back of the tongue - which the patient must swallow. The balloon is then slowly inflated with a saline solution and blue dye inside the stomach, while the surgeon observes the process via the endoscope.
Lastly, the endoscope is removed and the balloon stays in place for the next 3 to 6 months.
Most balloons are removed after 6 months using an endoscope. There is now the possibility of inserting the SPATZ balloon which can be refilled after 3 months and hence can be in use for 12 months instead of only 6.
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