Safety

Like all medical interventions, gastric balloon procedure has its own risks as well. However, they are very rare, hence it’s still considered safer than the more invasive and expensive bariatric surgery (Gastric bypass and sleeve). It’s widely believed that the risks associated with overweight and obesity are higher than the very rare risks associated with this procedure. And to put the gastric balloon device in perspective, most studies report a significantly higher rate of serious adverse events for gastric bypass and sleeve surgeries.

The effectiveness of gastric balloon treatment and its safety depend mostly on the following factors:

  • Doctor: the experience of the medical professionals performing the procedure. (Read about Dr. Haytham’s remarkable experience here)
  • Balloon: the type of implanted gastric balloons. (We use European CE-marked gastric balloons, read more about it here).
  • Patient: Involvement of the patient in the therapeutic process.
    The patient’s knowledge of obesity and their compliance with the treatment, including the use of prescribed medications, and the following of the recommended dietary and exercise regime.
    Motivation to achieve the therapeutic goal and maintaining the effects after the balloon is removed.

Common adverse events

At the beginning of gastric balloon therapy, a majority of people will develop some form of gastrointestinal symptoms due to gastric accommodation to the balloon. Typical symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, acid reflux, burping, stomach upset, and constipation.

The patient condition can be ameliorated by the medications prescribed before, during and after the procedure. Early balloon removal may be necessary if symptoms persist. However, very few people (4% to 7%) continue to experience significant gastrointestinal symptoms after the first week of therapy. In certain clinical trials, early removal rates for some gastric balloons were 7% and 9%, according to a review by the UptoDate website.

Serious adverse events

A small number of serious adverse events have been reported with gastric balloon therapy, related to either the balloon or the procedure.

Gastric balloons left in the stomach longer than the intended duration of therapy are at risk of rupturing and migrating into the intestine. While most migrated balloons were excreted successfully, some caused intestinal obstructions. Thus, patients should be followed closely to ensure timely balloon removal, which reduces the risk of balloon migration and intestinal obstruction.

Many of the balloons are filled with sterile saline that is dyed blue. If a rupture occurs, the patient’s urine may turn blue or green because the spilled dye is absorbed and then excreted by the kidneys. This mechanism warns the patient that the balloon has ruptured, so it can be retrieved before it migrates and causes bowel obstruction.

Other balloon-related SAEs included severe vomiting, abdominal pain, epigastric pain, nausea, bleeding ulcer, gastric outlet obstruction, and gastric perforation.

Procedure-related serious adverse events

Most procedure-related SAEs occur during balloon removal, including esophageal tear, pneumonia, gastrointestinal bleeding, and esophageal perforation. At Nordic Gastric Balloon, the procedures are performed by Dr. Al-tayar who is the most experienced in the Scandinavian countries and has been recognized for his top-quality performance. He has so far performed more than 1000 gastric balloon procedures with remarkable success. (Read about Dr. Al-tayar’s bio here)

Related topic:

Why travel to Copenhagen for the gastric balloon?