A non-surgical gastric balloon which helps weight loss by restricting the size of the stomach has been made available on the NHS for the first time.

The treatment, which was approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) in 2020, takes 15 minutes and involves a capsule being swallowed by the patient which is attached to a thin tube.

An X-ray confirms the correct placement in the stomach and 550ml of water is put into the balloon via the tube. A second X-ray is then taken to check the balloon is full and sitting well in the stomach. The tube is then removed.

The treatment lasts for four months after which a valve opens and the balloon empties and naturally passes through the body.

Unlike other gastric balloons available on the NHS, it requires no surgery, endoscopy or anaesthesia.

Two patients received the treatment in November last year at Musgrove Park hospital, part of Somerset NHS foundation trust, and a further three patients are due to receive the treatment in February at the same trust.

Allurion, the company that manufactures the device, says it is in discussion with other NHS trusts to roll out the treatment more widely.

Swallowable gastric balloons have been described as an effective treatment for obesity, with previous studies suggesting that it could help patients to lose around a third of excess body weight.

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% 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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