Losing weight isn’t easy, and when it comes to morbid obesity, surgery is often the only viable resource left when other medically supervised weight loss programs, including diet and exercise, are no longer an option. Gastric banding is among the most common surgical methods to lose weight for obese patients who have previously struggled to do it on their own through non-surgical methods.

During the procedure, a thin silicone ring filled with saline is implanted around the upper part of the stomach in order to reduce the size and capacity of the organ. Following the surgery, patients feel full faster and by eating less amounts of food. Due to the characteristics of the gastric band procedure, simple additional surgeries to readjust, reposition or remove the device are often needed.

There are currently two gastric band devices approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in the weight loss surgery — the Realize Band was approved by the FDA in 2007 and the Lap-Band System four years later — both of them with proven and demonstrated safety and efficacy. However, the two types of gastric banding surgery include some risks and potential complications that need to be considered by both physicians and patients.

Main Gastric Band Complications

The greatest risk from a gastric band surgery is related to the placement of band, which can experience erosion, slippage or partial displacement, requiring an additional procedure to correct it. There are also tubing-related complications, which include both port disconnection and tubing. Band leak, esophageal spasm, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), inflammation or infection are also potential complications.

A study entitled “Complications associated with adjustable gastric banding for morbid obesity: a surgeon’s guide,” published in 2011, concluded that laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB) is an overall safe procedure with a medium-term efficacy comparable to a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, another surgical method for weight loss that involves a more invasive, permanent, and risky procedure. Patients submitted to gastric band surgery are able to lose on average up to 60% of their excessive weight and it has a lower overall and major complication rate than Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.

Other Risks Associated With Gastric Band Surgery

While gastric band complications tend to be mild, some do exist. Regurgitation, nausea, acid reflux, constipation or diarrhea are often symptoms experienced during the recovery and the new size of the stomach. In addition to the most common complications associated with gastric band surgery, there are also other risks less likely to occur as well as risks related to any type of surgery, including abdominal and chest pain, dehydration, gallstones, gastrointestinal inflammation or swelling, allergies to the anesthesia or medications, thrombosis, embolism, stroke, heart attack or even death.

Given the risks and complications related to gastric band surgery or other surgeries to lose weight, other options for medically supervised weight loss programs can be discussed with specialized physicians. In order to be eligible to undergo the surgery and have a gastric band placed, patients need to be older than 18 years and have either a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or higher, or have a BMI between 30 and 40 but also suffer from a medical condition associated with obesity, which include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic disease or sleep apnea.

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