Spotlight on Gastric Bands: Keeping the Weight Off for Good

Also known as a lap-band, a gastric band is a silicone collar placed around a person’s stomach to reduce appetite, making them feel fuller for longer. Surgeons began using gastric bands as long ago as 1993 as a treatment for morbid obesity. It is an effective surgical intervention that helps patients lose weight, with a lower risk of some of the more serious complications associated with gastric bypass surgery.

Here is what you need to know about them:

How is a gastric band fitted?

Bariatric surgery is a common weight loss surgery today for individuals who are very overweight. A gastric band is essentially an adjustable band that is inserted around the top part of the stomach. It stops the patient from eating as much as they did prior to surgery, reducing their appetite with the ultimate goal of helping them to lose weight.

After the gastric band is fitted, a small pocket is formed at the top of the stomach just above the band. When the individual eats, this pouch fills up quickly, making them feel full sooner and for a longer period of time. This decreases the amount that they eat and causes them to lose weight.

Because it is a tube, a gastric band is also fully adjustable. The surgeon tightens it by injecting fluid into a tube connected to the band. The surgeon can also loosen the band if necessary. The gastric band regulates the rate at which food passes from the pouch to the lower section of the stomach, helping clinicians to ensure that the patient steadily loses the appropriate amount of weight.

Who is a gastric band suitable for?

Generally, an individual will need to meet specific criteria to be considered for bariatric surgery. These include the following:

-Having a BMI of 40 or greater, or a BMI of 35 with at least one obesity-related health condition, such as musculoskeletal issues, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

-Having exhausted all other treatment options first, including exercise and dieting.

-Being sufficiently healthy to undergo a general anesthetic and surgery.

-Being committed to following a long-term care plan, including making lifestyle changes, and attending regular follow-up appointments and check-ups.

Gastric bands will not work for everyone. The surgery may not be suitable for individuals with chronic conditions such as heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or psychological disorders. Where there are concerns about a patient’s mental health, clinicians will perform psychological assessments to determine whether bariatric surgery is appropriate for them.

Are gastric bands safe?

Gastric bands are widely regarded as the safest form of weight loss surgery available today. The procedure is minimally invasive, meaning it is relatively low risk in terms of potential complications.

Compared with other gastric procedures, gastric band surgery typically involves a much shorter hospital stay, with most patients returning home within one day of surgery. There is also a relatively brief recovery time, with the majority of patients recovering within one week.

Unlike a sleeve gastrectomy or a gastric bypass, fitting a gastric band does not permanently change the body. No part of the stomach is removed, stapled, or rerouted, meaning that gastric band surgery is completely reversible, if required or desired.

Fitting a gastric band does not interfere with the body’s normal digestive processes. Nutrients are absorbed in the same way. Unlike with gastric bypass surgery, which is associated with dumping syndrome and vitamin deficiencies, an individual who has a gastric band fitted should not need to take daily nutritional supplements post-surgery.

A gastric band promotes gradual weight loss. In turn, weighing less makes it easier for people to move around and exercise, improving their general fitness and wellbeing. In addition, losing weight can also ameliorate the symptoms of any co-morbid conditions present. For example, an individual who already had high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, or high cholesterol prior to insertion of the gastric band may experience a reduction in symptoms as they lose weight post-surgery.

Any surgical procedure has some risk, including gastric band surgery. Nevertheless, for people who are morbidly obese, the advantages typically far outweigh the risks. Optimal aftercare is integral to the success of gastric band surgery. The patient will need to follow medical advice about lifestyle changes and best eating practices, as well as receiving periodic band adjustments.

One of the best things about a gastric band is its ability to gently but progressively control appetite. Surgical placement of the band should be seen as the first step in a long-term weight reduction process. To get value from the band, the patient must have frequent, precise adjustments based on the decrease in their appetite and their pattern of weight loss.

In the first three months, individuals who have undergone bariatric surgery can expect to lose 25 percent of their excess weight, rising to 45 percent at nine months, and 50 percent after a year. Post-surgery, patients are advised to eat small amounts of good food slowly, with three or fewer meals per day, and no snacks.

Gastric band surgery helps patients not only lose weight, but keep the weight off permanently. One study involving more than 8,000 patients indicated that most achieved good weight loss following insertion of the gastric band, with 49 percent of respondents still keeping off excess weight two decades post-surgery.