How to Decide if the Gastric Band is Right For You

The gastric band, or “lap band,” refers to laproscopic adjustable gastric banding surgery or vertical banded gastroplasty. Although the gastric band is a popular weight loss surgery, it is not the most popular surgery. Unlike gastric bypass, which restricts food intake and causes malabsorption (the decreased ability to absorb nutrients and calories from food), the gastric band only reduces the size of the stomach so patients eat less and feel full faster.

Gastric bypass surgery ultimately results in more weight loss, around two-thirds of excess body weight over two years, while the gastric band produces an average weight loss of 40 percent of excess body weight. Both types of weight loss surgery have pros and cons. The only way to decide which is best for you is to consider the facts and speak with your physician about which options he feels may be best for you. In the meantime, the following information will help you get started.

Gastric Band Requirements

The University of California Center for the Treatment of Obesity has established a special set of criteria for the ideal gastric band surgery candidate. The ideal candidate is severely overweight. A body mass index of 35 is considered severely obese, 40 is morbidly obese and 50 is super obese. 

In addition to being severely overweight, the ideal gastric band surgery candidate has been overweight for more than 5 years, has made repeated (serious) attempts to lose weight, and does not have a condition that causes obesity. If you feel that you are a perfect match so far, there are several additional criteria that must be met.

Candidates must promise to make substantial changes to their eating habits and lifestyle, follow a pre-operative nutritional program, cooperate with a specialist that will monitor them on a continuous basis following surgery, and must promise not to abuse alcohol.

Gastric Band Pros and Cons

If you follow all pre- and post-operative instructions, and if you cooperate with the specialist that will be treating and monitoring you, you will lose weight. As a result of weight loss, you will notice improved sleep patterns and less daytime sleepiness, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels and improved lung function. In addition, heart disease and cancer risk (colon, kidney, postmenopausal breast cancer) decreases.

While gastric banding can lead to better health in the long-term, there are a few common side effects that may occur following surgery. Some patients may experience vomiting, nausea, minor bleeding and infections at or near the wound site. The silicone band may need to be adjusted a few times as well. Although uncommon, it is estimated that the risk of death from weight loss surgery is around 1 in 2,000.

Overall, gastric banding is considered safer than gastric bypass mainly because gastric banding does not prevent the absorption of food. Malabsorption can lead to vitamin deficiencies. In addition, gastric banding is not as invasive as gastric bypass and the surgery is reversible. Gastric bypass surgery is considered permanent.

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