Medically reviewed by Dr. John Rosdeutscher – Written by Sine Thieme
The purpose of a gastric balloon is to help the patient lose weight and keep it off permanently. It is first and foremost used to treat obesity. As a consequence of this type of weight loss therapy, a patient is also able to reduce the amount of fat in their body.
However, there are other options for fat removal. Especially if you are relatively close to your target weight but struggle with pesky pockets of fat around your midsection, you may benefit more from fat removal method like liposuction, skin tightening, fat freezing, or even a tummy tuck.
In this article we will be comparing a gastric balloon to fat removal and other forms of cosmetic surgery that result in the reduction of body fat. This will help you choose the right procedure depending on your body type and your goals.
When to Choose a Gastric Balloon
Removing belly fat will not work if your weight is the real culprit. You might reduce your girth temporarily, but if there are other issue to blame such as your eating habits, fat removal will not yield any permanent results. Both paths are not mutually exclusive. Patients often participate in a weight loss program first, and then undergo additional fat reduction and skin tightening treatments once they have reached a stable target weight.
As everyone knows, losing weight is not easy. Diet and exercise of course are the best non-invasive weight loss measures, but they can be leave you frustrated if the results don’t materialize relatively fast. It is hard to stay motivated if you have to wait months to see any kind of progress. A gastric balloon gives you a powerful assist in that it helps you lose a large amount of weight in just the first few weeks. This in turn motivates you to keep going for even bigger results. In this way you are able to lose 20-50 lbs over the course of 6 moths, and not gain it back.
The Orbera Intragastric Balloon
Orbera is a simple, minimally-invasive procedure to place a silicone balloon in the stomach. The balloon is inflated to the size of a grapefruit with a sterile saline solution. It remains there for 6 months, during which time it reduces the feeling of hunger and helps the patient learn better eating habits.
Orbera is intended for a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 40. A gastric surgeon may even go up to 41 or 42, depending on the patient’s situation and health indicators. For even higher rates of obesity, we advise to enroll in a traditional weight loss program before undergoing a gastric procedure.
When to Choose Liposuction
Patients who are relatively close to their target weight and want to simply reduce fat in certain targeted areas can achieve great results with liposuction. Liposuction is a minimally-invasive procedure with a short recovery of 1-2 days. It can be used for fat removal on a variety of areas: upper abdomen, lower abdomen, waist, back, hips, male chest area, inner thighs, outer thighs, upper arms, chin, or neck.
For liposuction to be effective, your BMI should be 30 or below (calculate your BMI here). It is also important that you are in good health and without underlying conditions that might delay healing.
Another thing a plastic surgeon might look for in a liposuction candidate is good skin elasticity. Younger patients and women who have not undergone pregnancy and childbirth typically fall into this category. But even older women with children can have high enough skin elasticity for liposuction to work well. The best way to learn if you’re a good candidate is to schedule a personal consultation.
Combining Liposuction With Skin Tightening
Liposuction is typically not a single type of procedure. Rather, there are many treatments under the liposuction umbrella, and often a plastic surgeon will combine several methods to achieve the best overall results.
We spoke of good skin elasticity earlier. Even if you are a good liposuction candidate in terms of your general health and target weight, you may have sagging skin. Removing the fat underneath will only make this sagging worse. It’s like taking air out of a balloon – it becomes wrinklier the more it shrinks. If you’ve undergone extreme weight loss in the past, or have a pregnancy or two behind you, you might fall into this category.
If this is the case, your surgeon may propose that you add radio frequency assisted skin tightening to your liposuction. It is a similar procedure – minimally-invasive – that contracts tissues under your skin to give it a tighter appearance. The two procedures that have shown the most success are BodyTite and Renuvion. They are applied immediately following liposuction to the already sedated areas and can achieve skin contraction of 35% to 60%. Your recovery time (1-2 days) is typically not any longer than it would be with liposuction alone.
Glandular Excision With Liposuction
One area where skin tightening combined with liposuction works particularly well is the reduction of male breasts. The liposuction is used to extract excess fat, and the skin tightening gives the finishing touches. However, a male breast reduction may need a surgical assist to yield the best results. There may be excess glandular tissue that needs to be removed or “excised.” Glandular excision is a small surgical procedure that can easily be combined with BodyTite or Renuvion during a male breast reduction.
Many men combine this procedure with additional liposuction on their abdomen to achieve their aesthetic goals for both the chest and stomach areas.
Liposuction vs Gastric Balloon
Again, the two procedures are not true alternatives of each other. Liposuction removes excess fat but does not treat obesity, and a gastric balloon results in weight loss but may leave remnants of fat around the midsection and other areas, such as bra bulges, thighs, upper arms, and neck.
If you are classified as obese, ideally you would have a gastric balloon first, an after completion of the 6-month program you would have any left over pockets of fat treated with liposuction and, as needed, skin tightening.
When to Choose a Tummy Tuck
There is no doubt that a tummy tuck is the gold standard in belly fat reduction and skin tightening. It is a one-time surgical procedure that gives you a flat stomach and tight skin all at once. The downside of a tummy tuck is that it has a longer and more difficult recovery than the other cosmetic procedures discussed here, and that it results in a visible scar.
But if you have a large amount of sagging belly skin, no amount of radio frequency or other non-surgical treatment will shrink it enough to look presentable in a bathing suit. Patients with BMIs between 30 and 40 are generally good tummy tuck candidates. You can even combine liposuction and skin tightening with a tummy tuck to achieve the best overall results.
Tummy Tuck vs Gastric Balloon
Should you get a gastric balloon or tummy tuck? This is not really the right question to ask. The right question to ask is, am I fairly close to my target weight? If yes, then the next step would be to consult with a plastic surgeon whether they recommend liposuction or a tummy tuck.
If you are not close to your target weight, then the next step would be to calculate your BMI. If it is in the 30-40 range, or even in the low 40s, then you are eligible for a gastric balloon. If your BMI is too high, your doctor most likely will advise you to enroll in a traditional weight loss program first.
Once again, we invite you to calculate your BMI. It’s the best approximation you can get to a physical evaluation without an actual doctor’s visit. Gastric balloon placement and removal as well as a full range of cosmetic surgery including liposuction, radio frequency assisted skin tightening, and tummy tuck is available at NuBody Concepts in Nashville. Make sure to ask about virtual consultations and our travel package for out of town patients.
If you are ready to get started, call us at 615-229-5975 weekdays between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm to schedule your consultation!