Balloon Travel: Americans Cross Borders for New Surgery

With weight gain problems still prevalent in the West today, wellness experts have been forced to find different and better ways to surgically treat obesity. Into this arena comes the intragastric balloon, one of the newest players in weight loss wellbeing for which many US patients – whose own country does not approve the procedure – have chosen to cross the border to Canada to receive.


The popularity of the intragastric balloon may stem from the fact that it is less invasive than traditional bariatric surgery. For the procedure, your doctor inserts a tube down your oesophagus and into your stomach, so there’s no surgical incision involved. He or she then threads a deflated balloon down the tube, places it correctly and then blows it up to the size of an orange and fills it with sterile blue water. The balloon can reside inside your stomach for up to six months before it needs to be removed – to prevent ruptures – but if you need further support then you can simply have the procedure again, and as many times as you need.


The balloon works by decreasing your feelings of hunger, which makes you eat less and, as a result, lose more weight. As opposed to conventional bariatric surgery, the approach of the intragastric balloon is reversible, minimally invasive, and the most cost-effective surgery option. According to the Consumer Guide to Bariatric Surgery, the gastric sleeve is cheapest traditional option, costing around $10,000, while the others range from $17,000 to $35,000. The intragastric balloon, on the other hand, is approximately $8,000.


So far, Canadian clinics have seen very positive results, with patients losing an average of 20 – 40 pounds, which they manage to maintain over the course of six months. Roughly one-third of these patients are from the US, but medical tourists have also been making tracks to Europe and South America for the procedure. This is a risky choice to make away from the comfort of your own medical team, as the balloon could possibly break and require surgery to remove, or cause you to experience nausea and vomiting if you overeat. However, as the balloon is currently undergoing clinical trials with the FDA, soon Americans may not have to travel so far a field to get the procedure they’re after.

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