The Lap-Band Adjustable Gastric Banding System is a type of surgical treatment for obese and morbidly obese patients who struggle to lose weight using other non-surgical methods. The system consists of an inflatable and adjustable band that is placed around the upper part of the stomach, limiting its size. Patients will feel full faster by eating smaller amounts of food. The band, which is placed during a laparoscopic surgery, provokes weight loss without altering the normal digestive tract.

In addition to consulting with a physician the eligibility for receiving the Lap-Band, patients should also get informed about potential complications that can occur during and following the surgery. Just like with any other surgical procedure, there are risks. However, seeking a certified medical center and surgeon, as well as following the physicians’ recommendations on how to deal with the band and on the life-style alterations needed are among the first steps to avoid the possibility of complications.

Most Common Complications from the Lap-Band System

Undergoing surgery always brings with it certain risks, which are also a consideration in the case of bariatric surgery. Potential complications from the surgery to place the Lap-Band include damage to the spleen or liver, damage to major blood vessels, lung problems, blood clots (thrombosis), tearing or infection of the wound, and tearing of the stomach or esophagus during surgery, according to the producer of the band, the company Apollo Endosurgery.

Death can also occur, but there is only a 0.006% risk of it. In fact, all of these major Lap-Band complications are extremely rare.

In addition to surgical complications, complications can also occasionally occur due to the band itself. Complications associated with the Lap-Band itself include vomit or regurgitation, difficulties swallowing (dysphagia), development of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), nausea, pain in the abdomen, pain following the surgical procedure, and pain in the incision site, as well as leaks in the Lap-Band, pouch dilatation, Lap-Band slippage from its original position, Lap-Band erosion into the lining of the stomach, and esophageal dilatation.

However, many of these so-called “complications” are often not the result of the band malfunctioning, and more often are the result of patients not complying with the program that accompanies insertion of the Lap-Band. Patients must adhere to changes in their diet as well as exercise — those patients who continue to try and eat the way they did prior to the band often suffer complications as a result of that eating behavior.

Potential Bariatric Surgery Complications Compared

There are different types of bariatric surgery, including the Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding, Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy and the Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass. All of these weight loss surgery types incur risks, and can be conducted laparoscopically, which means without the need for open surgery. The fact that the procedure is performed by making small incisions in the abdomen already reduces the risk of surgical complications. The Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Band, which is used to place a Lap-Band, is however the least invasive method, since there is no stomach amputation or cutting of the intestines during the surgery.

Analysis presented by the Lap-Band informational website demonstrates that the total of complications associated with Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding is 6%, compared to 18% for Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass and 24% for the Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy. The reoperation rate is 1% compared to 3 and 5% respectively, while the readmission rate is 2%, compared to 5 and 6%. In addition, the 30-day morbidity due to a Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding is 1%, and 6% due to each of the two other procedures. The data is based on analysis of the BOLD, ACS and LABS databases.

Possible Lap-Band Complications Compared to Efficacy

Investigators responsible for the study “Complications associated with adjustable gastric banding for morbid obesity: a surgeon’s guide” also demonstrated that the placement of a Lap-Band through a Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding procedure is a safe and effective method of weight loss and reduction of comorbidities associated with obesity. In addition to being considered safe, patients and physicians should take into consideration the results from the treatment.

The first study conducted by the producer of the Lap-Band, the company Apollo Endosurgery, between 1995 and 2001 revealed that the system help patients lose on average 36% of their excess weight three years after the procedure. Due to the advancements in the field, another study conducted from 2007 to 2009 demonstrated that the average patient lost about 65% of the excess weight only one year after the surgery. In addition to losing weight, patients may also improve comorbidities like high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, gallbladder problems, type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea or osteoarthritis.

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