Adjustable gastric band surgery is a weight loss method meant for morbidly obese patients who have unsuccessfully tried to lose weight alone or with the help of physicians through diet, exercise, pre-packed meals or pharmacotherapy. The surgery is performed by making small laparoscopic incisions (hence the term “Laparoscopic Gastric Band”), which are used to insert a band around the upper part of the stomach, creating a small pouch and limiting food intake.
The adjustable gastric band is one of the least invasive surgical procedures to treat obesity and among its benefits is its ability to be adjusted and even removed. The band is one-size-fits-all and is filled with a saline solution that can be inflated or deflated by the physician in the monthly visits following the surgery in order to control patients’ hunger and satiety.
Why Is a Gastric Band Port Needed?
The adjustment of the band using injected saline solution into the tube is made through an access port that is placed in all patients who have successfully undergone an adjustable gastric band surgery. This access is called the gastric band port and it is set just under the skin to provide physicians easy access. Patients continue to be followed periodically by their physicians to ensure that weight loss progress is gradual and healthy and that the patients feel satisfied after eating.
If the patient is still hungry after meals, the physician may use the gastric band port to inject saline and fill the band, a process that will result in a better fit to the stomach. The inflation of the band will decrease the size of the opening between the pouch and the rest of the stomach, which leads to a slower transport from one part of the stomach to the other, increasing the feeling of satiety faster and for longer periods of time. Conversely, the physician may need to use the gastric band port to reduce the band in cases of malnutrition or overly rapid weight loss.
During an adjustment process that lasts only 5 to 10 minutes, the physician uses a special needle to inject the saline solution and prevent damage to the diaphragm of the port. There is no set pattern or number of adjustments — physicians will fill and drain the ring through the gastric band port based on the patient’s specific needs. However, the first band adjustment is usually scheduled for the week after the patient starts to eat solid food, which means about four to six weeks following the surgery, allowing the stomach time to heal.
How To Live With a Gastric Band Port?
The gastric band port is placed by the surgeon under the skin in the abdomen, but the exact location can be the upper abdomen (the most common) or off to the left or right, according to the surgeon’s preferences and the patient’s anatomy. It can also be placed underneath the muscle, which reduces its prominence and increases patients’ tolerance. However, it is harder for the physicians to access it when placed under the muscle.
Depending on each patient’s fat layer and port position, the gastric band port is usually felt beneath the skin. Personal experiences differ from one patient to another, but the majority of the reports state that both living with the port and the adjustment process involve little to no pain. In addition to the regular visits to the doctor, the port does not typically interfere with patients’ normal life. There is, however, the risk of flipping or migration, which makes it harder or even impossible for the physicians to adjust the band and can require a repositioning of the port.