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What Is a Weight Loss Gastric Balloon?

The weight loss gastric balloon system is an innovative nonsurgical procedure used by physicians in the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center to treat appropriately selected patients with obesity who want to lose weight and achieve a healthier lifestyle.

The FDA-approved procedure involves placing a temporary, soft balloon inside the patient’s stomach (endoluminal) for six months. The balloon takes up space in the stomach, limiting food intake and reinforcing proper portion control.

Patients must be willing to follow a 12-month health program, beginning with the placement of the temporary balloon and continuing for six months after the removal of the balloon. The program includes a healthy diet and exercise plan, which are critical for patients to achieve significant weight loss results. Not all patients are candidates for this procedure. Patients should have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 to 40. See full eligibility requirements.

Patients will receive coaching from a team of experts at Mass General, including a dietitian, psychologist and obesity medicine physician. Coaching continues for six months after the balloon is removed.

Weight loss from the procedure can be rapid, with the majority of weight loss typically occurring in the first three months after placement. On average, patients lose 3.1 times the weight loss of diet and exercise alone. In studies, patients lost approximately 38% of their excess weight at six months.

What Happens During a Gastric Balloon Procedure?

Placement of the Balloon

During the procedure:

  • An endoscope with a thin, deflated balloon is inserted through the patient’s mouth and placed into the stomach
  • The balloon is then filled with sterile saline until it is about the size of a grapefruit, and stays in the stomach for six months
  • No incisions are made during this noninvasive procedure

Removal of the Balloon

After six months:

  • A nonsurgical procedure, similar to the insertion of the balloon, is performed to remove the balloon
  • The balloon is deflated first and then removed

How to Prepare for a Gastric Balloon Procedure

Patients will meet with a Mass General specialist to discuss weight loss goals and develop a comprehensive lifestyle program. This may include personalized coaching and expert guidance on dietary nutrition and fitness.

Patients should avoid consuming any food or liquid for 12 hours prior to the procedure (both placement and removal of the balloon).

What Is the Recovery Time from the Procedure?

In the first few days after placement of the balloon, patients may experience nausea or vomiting. This may last up to two weeks for some patients. Our specialists will work with you to prescribe medication that will proactively manage these symptoms and help you adjust to the balloon.

Who Is Eligible for a Gastric Balloon Procedure?

Not all patients are candidates for the weight loss balloon procedure. A full evaluation is needed to determine if a patient is eligible.

Ideal candidates include patients who:

  • Are 22 years or older
  • Have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 to 40
  • Are willing to participate in a medically supervised program

Conditions that may prevent a patient from having the procedure include:

  • Previous gastrointestinal surgery
  • Any inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract (i.e. inflammatory bowel disease)
  • Potential upper gastrointestinal bleeding or other congenital anomalies
  • Large hiatal hernia or structural abnormality in the larynx or esophagus
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Past or present psychological disorders
  • Regular use of anticoagulants, aspirin, anti-inflammatories or any other gastric irritants
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding

Does Insurance Cover the Gastric Balloon Procedure?

The procedure is currently available to patients as a self-pay option. Insurance does not cover the balloon.

Why Mass General?

Mass General is consistently ranked among the best hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report. As part of the Mass General Digestive Healthcare Center, the Mass General Weight Center is unique for its expert, multidisciplinary approach to care. Our physicians are among the most experienced in the region, and are accustomed to seeing both local and international patients with multiple medical conditions.

At the Mass General Weight Center, your care team comprises your surgeon, dietitian and psychologist. Before and after your procedure, your care team designs an individualized treatment plan for you that promotes long-term weight loss. Mass General experts are available for counseling on nutrition, exercise and behavior modification along with medical management of related diseases.