4 Risks and Benefits of the Gastric Band

Gastric band surgery, also known as lap band surgery, is a type of weight loss operation that reduces the size of the stomach. During the operation, a surgeon places a small elastic band at the top of the stomach, creating a pouch that can hold the equivalent of a half cup of food. Once placed, it will force the person to eat less, as the stomach will fill out quickly with very little food.

Weight loss occurs naturally because of the drastic reduction in calories consumed. According to experts, most of the weight loss occurs within the first three to five years after the surgery. Four out of five people, however, regain the weight after a decade. This is partly because the stomach can stretch and will eventually hold more food, denying the benefits of the band.  

1. Benefit: Controls Risk Factors

Gastric band surgery is only recommended for people who are obese and have a Body Mass Index of 40 or more. Obese people are at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. Losing weight will reduce their risk. Because the surgery causes rapid weight loss during the first year, the health benefits will be quick to show. The gastric band surgery does not touch the intestines, as other weight loss surgeries do. This means there’s no risk of malabsorption issues, and your body will still get all nutrients from your food.

2. Risk: Surgery Complications

Gastric band surgery is performed under general anesthesia and as such carries the same risks as any major procedure. As with any other surgery, there’s also the risk of infection. If the band is not placed correctly or if moves over time, a second surgery may be needed to correct the problem. This again introduces the same risks. After surgery, there’s also the risk of stomach pains, gastritis and an increased risk of ulcer formation.

3. Risk: Dislocation

Band slippage is a rather common occurrence and can lead to irritation, leakage and internal bleeding. In some cases, the band completely slips from its original position. This can result in two scenarios. The first one is that the band loosens up, allowing food to enter the whole stomach and making the pouch useless. The second is that the band can get entangled in the lower part of the abdomen, causing an obstruction and requiring emergency surgery. Over the years, the band might also lose strength and leak. While replacement is not a problem, it does require an additional intervention.

4. Benefit: Rapid Recovery Time

Compared to other forms of weight loss surgeries, the gastric band is relatively safe. No cutting or stappling of the stomach is required, which means the band can be easily removed, allowing the stomach to return to its normal size. Most patients only stay in the hospital for a day or two and recovery at home is usually quick as well. Gastric bypass surgery has a mortality rate of 1 in 250, while the gastric band reduces those numbers to one death in every 2,000 patients.  

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