A technique referred to as a stomach balloon is being used by a small number of specialist doctors, in which a tube with a deflated balloon at its end is swallowed. Once in the stomach the intragastric balloon is inflated to fill up approximately three-quarters of the stomach volume. The tube is removed and the balloon can remain in place for weeks or months.
While present the balloon fools the stomach into believing that it is already full, thus reducing the appetite and desire to eat. The obvious aim is to reduce the calorie (kilojoule) intake of the patient to the point where they lose weight.
There are complications with the procedure. It is possible for the stomach to become inflamed, for ulcers to develop, the outlet from the stomach may become blocked, uncontrollable vomiting may occur and in very rare instances the stomach may rupture.
Obesity and overeating in some people is a habit that is extremely hard to control and they continue to eat and further expand the stomach despite the presence of the balloon.
The balloon cannot remain in place permanently. Once it is removed those who may have lost a great deal of weight often start gorging again and regain all the lost weight.
There is no easy answer to reducing obesity – only lots of different, difficult and/or expensive ones. The cheapest and most effective is self-discipline, diet and exercise – but that is certainly not an easy option.