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‘World-first’ non-surgical gastric balloon becomes available on NHS

Procedure takes 15 minutes and is the first and only treatment of its kind to not require surgery, endoscopy or anaesthesia.

By Hospital Times

A non-surgical gastric balloon, which aids weight loss by restricting the size of the stomach, has been made available on the NHS for the first time. The treatment is for patients who are awaiting bariatric surgery, and has been given to patients at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust – the first public sector organisation to use it.

It is the only gastric balloon treatment available on the NHS which does not require surgery, endoscopy or anaesthetic.

The procedure takes approximately 15 minutes in total, and sees patients swallow a small capsule attached to a thin tube. After an x-ray confirms the correct placement of the capsule in the stomach, the capsule is inflated via the tube with 550ml of water. Once a second x-ray confirms the desired placement of the now-inflated balloon, the tube is removed. After four months, a valve opens and the balloon deflates, before passing naturally through the body.

The treatment is being offered to patients who have BMIs in the 50-60 range, in order to get them fit enough for bariatric surgery. These patients are identified as having “severe, complicated obesity”, and likely suffer from associated conditions such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnoea, joint problems, gastro-esophageal reflux or liver disease, all of which can lead to poor quality of life.

Two patients received the treatment at the Trust’s Musgrove Hospital in November 2023, each losing an average of two stone. A further three patients are scheduled to undergo the procedure in February this year at the same Trust, with a dozen others also due to receive the treatment throughout 2024.

Alongside the gastric balloon, patients will also participate in a behavioural change programme to support them in keeping fit and healthy after the balloon has gone. The device’s manufacturer, Allurion, says it is in discussions with other NHS trusts to increase the availability of the treatment.

Prof Richard Welbourn, consultant bariatric surgeon at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are very pleased to be able to offer this new treatment, a first for the NHS, that offers clinically meaningful weight loss as part of a holistic programme involving dietary support and care.

“People with severe obesity are prone to diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, which can be reversed with weight loss.

“The Allurion balloon is a 15-minute outpatient procedure, and is swallowed, so there’s no need for an endoscopy, hospital bed, theatre time or anaesthetic, which is better for the NHS and a much-improved experience for our patients.

“We expect that patients using the programme will lose 10-15 per cent of their weight in four months, which improves quality of life and makes patients healthier.”

Dr Shantanu Gaur, the Founder and Chief Executive of Allurion, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with the NHS for the first time to deliver the Allurion programme.

“We are looking forward to expanding this partnership and benefiting many more NHS patients in the months and years to come.”

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