Allurion’s non-surgical gastric balloon with the delivery catheter.

Source: Allurion/PA

A novel gastric ‘balloon’ medical device has been made available on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) for the first time.

Unlike other weight loss procedures that have been made available on the NHS, the placement of this device requires no surgery, endoscopy or anaesthesia, or any stay in hospital overnight.

The simple 15-minute outpatient procedure requires the patient to swallow a capsule attached to a fine, delivery catheter (see picture, right) containing the deflated balloon. X-rays are used to confirm that the balloon is in the correct position in the stomach.

The outer casing of the capsule will be quickly dissolved by the stomach’s normal digestive action, allowing for the balloon to then be filled through the catheter with around 550ml of fluid which is typically made up of distilled water and citric acid.

A second X-ray will confirm that the balloon has inflated correctly and the catheter can then be removed. The patient will be asked to wait for a short time to ensure that it is tolerated and then discharged with prescriptions for proton pump inhibitors, anti-emetics and antispasmodics.

Over time the balloon slowly deflates, remaining in the stomach for around four months, after which it will pass naturally through the bowel.

The procedure will be offered to patients who aren’t clinically fit enough for weight-loss surgery.

“We expect that patients using the programme will lose 10-15% of their weight in four months, which improves quality of life and makes patients healthier,” said Professor Richard Welbourn, consultant bariatric surgeon at the UK’s Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, where the procedure was first conducted, worldwide.

The device is manufactured by Allurion which has been in discussion with NHS trusts about rolling out the treatment since approval in 2020 by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).