Reducing my body mass index (BMI) over the past two years has been challenging. In this personal blog post entry, I discuss the ‘success’ experienced after paying several thousands of dollars to intentionally swallow the tampon-size Elipse gastric balloon at the end of 2021. The saline-filled balloon sits in the stomach for 4 months and is designed to make you feel fuller for longer before passing naturally through the bowels.
Elipse gastric balloon procedure – My initial research
I was straight on the phone with my doctor after hearing about this new weight loss procedure. It was so new that my doctor was not aware of it and consulted with her colleagues experienced in gastric weight loss procedures.
I had my first appointment with the clinic doctor at the only clinic in Melbourne that performed this procedure. I did not go into this light-hearted and had several discussions with the clinic doctor and my personal doctor to thoroughly understand the risks. Including what happens if this thing got stuck in my bowels!
Am I the right candidate for this procedure?
I was asked to explain why I wanted to undergo this treatment after the clinic received my blood test results. It was clearly explained that this is not a quick fix nor something you can rely on 100%. Instead, the Elipse gastric balloon procedure is a treatment that acts as a kick-starter to fast-track individuals to a healthier lifestyle.
Before going ahead there was one more test to check if my stomach had any presence of a bacteria called H pylori within the lining of the stomach, which causes chronic gastritis.
Ellipse gastric balloon – My questions
1. What happens if I feel weak because I’m not having enough nutrients?
The procedure fee included a certain number of one-on-one appointments with a dietician to ensure my eating habits were on track which would identify if there were any issues.
2. How safe is it to continue exercising with a 500ml saline-filled balloon in the stomach?
It’s perfectly safe to carry on with regular exercise. However, I was not able to exercise 6 weeks after the treatment and only continued with my regular fitness routine after that time.
3. Will this procedure leave me with any loose skin?
Most people who lose a lot of weight fast can have excess skin. This is because they haven’t given their skin enough time to adjust. But with the Ellipse, the skin has enough time to adapt because the overall weight loss is not so significant (compared to the other procedures).
4. What are the complications?
One severe complication is the balloon getting stuck in the upper or lower bowel after 4 months. The Elipse balloon is designed to pass through the bowels naturally. However, if there are any complications, the clinic has a 24-hour emergency assistance number to speak directly with a nurse or doctor who would advise on the correct course of action.
I contacted the hotline number several times during the first 1-5 days after the treatment, which were the most horrendous days! So, it was a huge relief knowing I was able to have this support.
The clinic confirmed if I required emergency removal of the balloon, it was recommended to go to the emergency department at the hospital.
5. Did the clinic offer other balloons other than the Elipse?
The clinic offered other balloons; however, they were more expensive and required to go under to be inserted via my throat. This wasn’t something I wanted to do, as I saw this as an additional risk.
6. How much weight can you expect to lose?
I expected 10-15% weight loss in 4 months. This was not the case for me for some specific reasons. I was disappointed, but I lost enough to still make this worthwhile.
7. How uncomfortable will you be after the procedure?
I was fine straight after, but the first night and the following days were the toughest. I experienced nausea and stomach cramps (nothing like the cramps or nausea experienced during pregnancy or birth). But I honestly can say if you have not felt any of these symptoms before, this will hit you like a train! It was mentally and physically demanding, especially the 1-2 days after the procedure where I did not eat or drink a single thing for 48 hours to allow the balloon to settle in my stomach,
8. Can I claim anything back from private health insurance?
Unfortunately, as the balloon is considered an elective procedure, Private Health funds do not cover it.
Here’s a timeline of my pre and post-treatment experience
Below is a timeline of how I felt before and after the balloon was swallowed and filled with 500ml saline.
2 weeks before insertion – I started replacing one of my meals with a meal replacement shake.
On the day of the procedure – Despite two attempts, I couldn’t swallow the balloon. So, the doctor and nurse in the room had to manually push the tampon-sized compressed gastric balloon down my throat with a long wire. The balloon was then filled with 500ml of saline before the clinic took an x-ray to ensure the balloon placement was correct. This doesn’t sound pleasant, but this part wasn’t that bad at all. I felt fine right after the insertion, and I could feel something in my stomach.
A few hours after the procedure, I started developing moderate to severe nausea and constant cramping in my stomach. The first night was also tough, especially with stomach cramps on and off again. However, I had access to a special after hour hotline that I used and was comforted that what I was feeling was normal.
1 day after insertion: This was hard. I couldn’t even talk, probably because I was so weak. I had no energy and had to be seated for the first couple of days. So, I had to rely on a lot of help from the family to take care of the kids. I was hanging out for my infusion because I knew that once the drip was in my arm, I would immediately feel better once the fluids were pumped back into my body.
2 days after insertion – I could now enjoy some liquids. I couldn’t wait to wake up at 8am to a fresh-pressed apple juice. Wow apple juice tasted so delicious! After that, I could do some work but still felt lethargic and had no energy to play with the kids (who were retaken out of daycare due to COVID).
4 days after insertion – The stomach cramps and nausea were very mild, and I could sleep the entire night. However, I hadn’t eaten ANY solids for 5 days and it was insane to comprehend. This meant I had no mental or physical capacity to do much. So, hubby had to take most of the load for this entire week, which we didn’t prepare for.
4 weeks after insertion – I felt fine and didn’t notice the balloon. The energy levels and sleep patterns were back to normal, and I started to incorporate daily walks.
2 months after insertion – I was thrilled to be back to my weekly body pump and cycle classes.
4+ months after insertion – It was during the night when I felt sudden cramping in my stomach and knew my balloon had deflated. Since its passing I still have not been able to eat the same amount of food as I did before the procedure. However, my eating and lifestyle have dramatically improved, and I’m on track to feeling how I was before I had my two babies.
This treatment was worth it despite the lack of fluid and solids I couldn’t eat and nausea and stomach cramping in those first few days/weeks. It was the shock I had to pay to kick start my body, mind, and soul. I didn’t go into this lightly and did my thorough research as there were some serious risks.
The only thing I wish I had done was to speak to the dietician and the physiologist beforehand to combat emotional eating while we went through another lockdown with the kids at home. I’m confident I would have lost more if it weren’t for that period, as I wouldn’t have been in that mental state. But overall, I am happy with the results and lost enough to say this kicked me in the right direction confidently.