Obesity is a recognized disease, diagnosed according to a patient’s Body Mass Index (BMI) and it is regarded as one of the major modern health challenges. Having a BMI higher than 30 is consistent with a diagnosis of obesity and higher than 40 with morbid obesity. Obese patients usually face severe difficulties in losing weight alone by altering their diet and exercise habits. Therefore, there are numerous medically supervised weight loss programs. Among them, bariatric surgery is particularly meant for patients that failed in previous attempts to lose weight with other non-surgical methods.
So, you might ask: What is the Lap-Band surgery? Well, there are three kinds of approved surgical techniques to treat obesity: gastric banding, gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy. The Lap-Band surgery is considered “gastric banding.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows two types of gastric banding systems in the country, which are the Realize Gastric Band and the Lap-Band Gastric Banding System. The systems and its efficacy are similar, but the latter is used considerable more in the bariatric surgery marketplace.
What Is The Lap-Band Surgery? The Lap-Band Surgical Procedure
The Lap-Band system includes a silicone band, a thin tube and an access port. It is inserted into the body in a procedure that can be performed either as open or laparoscopic surgery. The laparoscopic Lap-Band surgery is currently the most common, since it implicates less risks. The surgeon makes five to six small incisions in the abdomen to insert the surgical instruments and a small camera called a laparoscope, which is used to improve visibility and accuracy.
The band is then placed around the upper part of the stomach, creating a ring. The band, which is inserted deflated, is attached to the thin tube that is used to connect to the access port. During monthly visits, the physician will insert or remove saline solution from the band to control the size of the pouch created. This procedure is conducted using a needle inserted through the skin into the access port, and the first inflation is performed following surgical recovery, often four to six weeks afterward.
Benefits and Efficacy Of The Lap-Band
The success and safety of the Lap-Band is scientifically proven and, according to the FDA, it helps “patients lose weight and maintain the weight loss, and it may help improve their health.” The study submitted to the agency to approve the system demonstrated that 80% of the patients with a BMI between 30 and 40 had lost on average 30% of their excess weight a year after the procedure, with patients eventually reaching 80% of excess weight loss. In addition to the weight, the overall quality of life and the management of comorbidities also improved.
The Lap-Band does not provoke weight loss on its own — the patient feels full faster and by eating smaller amounts of food. However, to achieve the goals of the treatment, a serious commitment from the patient is needed. Patients are asked to eat a healthy diet, starting with liquids and gradually transitioning to solids, and exercise regularly. The study entitled “Complications associated with adjustable gastric banding for morbid obesity: a surgeon’s guide” compared the Lap-Band type of surgery to a gastric bypass and concluded it is an overall safe procedure with a medium-term efficacy.
Risks Associated With Lap-Band Surgery
Regarding the Lap-Band surgery, there are risks related to the procedure itself and others to the ongoing use of the device. It is a safe procedure with a very low mortality rate, but complications may occur. Abdominal and chest pain, dehydration, gallstones, gastrointestinal inflammation or swelling, allergies to the anesthesia or medications, thrombosis, embolism, stroke, heart attack or even death are risks associated with the surgery and are common to other types of surgery as well.
In addition, the patient may also suffer from erosion, slippage or partial displacement of the band, as well as leakage, esophageal spasm, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), inflammation or infection due to the presence of the band in the body. In order to correct the problem or prevent it, additional surgeries may be needed. To avoid potential problems one of the most important factors is to discuss with the physician which weight loss surgery is the most appropriate to the patient’s characteristics and needs.
However, patients can mitigate the risks of Lap-Band complications by following the program that accompanies the device implantation. The Lap-Band features a miniscule .1% mortality rate, and complications are generally uncommon. Side-effects experienced by patients are usually not the result of the device itself, but by a lack of patient compliance, which is why following the Lap-Band’s diet program is essential in feeling good while using it.