This week saw some marketing schmooze coming out of the medical tourism sector in India, in which the intragastric balloon is being pushed as an alternative to gastric bypass surgery in the treatment of obesity.
According to press releases that flooded the news wires, the use of an intragastric balloon in the treatment of obesity and morbid obesity is well-known and has been around for years. In the mid-1980’s, poorly designed balloons had numerous complications leading to spontaneous and early deflations, balloon displacement, and intestinal obstruction. This led to market abandonment of the use of a gastric balloon to reduce stomach volume. Later, new types of balloons were tested successfully, and the procedure has become a clinically accepted method of treatment in Europe, but is not available in the United States.
After the removal or spontaneous evacuation of the balloon, weight regain is possible. Therefore, the procedure includes a relative long-term ineffectiveness, which explains that this device is not reimbursed in most countries. In some cases, weight loss is not sufficient or is impossible to stabilize because the patient has not changed his or her dietary habits
Currently, clinical results are not available to assess the procedure’s long-term value. This procedure is meant to incite a modification in eating habits, and that it is pointless if there is no diet support. In response to the hype emanating from Indian spas, in no way can the use of the intragastric balloon be regarded as an ultimate solution for obesity.