What You Should Know about Getting a Gastric Band

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There are several different options for weight-loss surgery, and deciding between them can be quite difficult. One option gaining in popularity is the gastric band, due to its demonstrated safety and effectiveness. Gastric band surgeries have lower rates of complications than options such as gastric bypass and stapling. Both bypass and stapling are permanent options that cannot be adjusted, while the gastric band can be adjusted easily whenever nutritional needs change, such as during pregnancy.

Furthermore, the gastric band procedure can be performed laparoscopically, which lowers the risks involved with surgery. For that reason, it is one of the least traumatic of all weight-loss surgeries.

How Does Gastric Band Surgery Work?

During gastric band surgery, a silicone loop is placed around the very top part of the stomach. This loop can be adjusted to put different amounts of pressure on the wall of the stomach. The pressure triggers the endings of the vagal afferent nerve to send signals to the brain that the stomach is full.

When you are not eating, these nerve signals provide a sense of satiety throughout the day so that your overall sense of hunger is reduced. When you eat, the pressure increases in your stomach, and stronger signals are sent to the brain so that the feeling of fullness intensifies.

The surgical placement of the band is only the first step in the process. You will go through the process of adjustment to control appetite and weight loss. With adjustments, you can achieve the right balance of satiety without experiencing the negative effects of too much pressure, such as difficulty swallowing.

The entire procedure takes about an hour and most patients leave the hospital the same day as surgery. They also generally return to work within three to five days. The adjustment process takes about 10 minutes for each change. If ever necessary, the entire procedure is reversible by simply removing the band.

What Are the Advantages of a Gastric Band Procedure?

The majority of patients who opt for a gastric band will lose between 40 percent and 60 percent of their excess body weight within two years of the initial operation. This weight loss carries no risk of intestinal leakage or food intolerance, which can occur with more invasive weight-loss surgeries. Whenever there is cutting and reconnecting of the digestive tract, issues like leaks can occur.

The other major benefit of the gastric band procedure is that it helps control the feeling of hunger by putting constant pressure on the top of the stomach. Other procedures do not provide this same sense of satiety, which many people find helpful in losing weight and controlling eating.

What Should Patients Know about the Gastric Band?

Before deciding on the gastric band, it’s important to recognize some important points. The first thing to know is that getting the gastric band involves learning how to eat differently. You will need to eat slower and chew your food thoroughly—eating too much too quickly can trigger nausea. Also, some types of food, such as bread, may not pass through the band when it is particularly tight.

The success of the procedure largely depends on following up with your surgeon regularly. For the first year, you will need to see your surgeon every six to eight weeks for check-ins and potential band readjustments. If you do not follow up regularly with your surgeon, you may not lose weight as expected.

The major risk involved with the gastric band is the chance of slippage. The device is an implant, so rarely, it can move to block the entire gastric pouch or cause some stomach erosion. If this happens, you will need to undergo another laparoscopic procedure to fix the problem. This problem is rare, but it needs to be addressed quickly if it happens.

Sometimes, other technical errors can occur that also require minor operations, such as a kink or leak in the tubing. Overall, about 10 percent of patients with a gastric band will need to have a second surgery at some point to fix a problem.

Does the Gastric Band Require Patients to Eat Differently?

All weight-loss surgeries require patients to change their eating habits. The success of the gastric band depends on how well you adjust your diet.

After the procedure, you should avoid mixing liquid and solid foods, as this can cause an expansion in the stomach that results in discomfort or nausea. You will need to become much more mindful of what you eat to ensure you maintain proper nutrition.

At each meal, it is not generally possible to eat more than a half cup of food without experiencing discomfort. Any food you eat should be of high quality, with plenty of protein. If you continue to eat foods with high fat and sugar content, such as milkshakes, you will likely not lose weight. Often, it makes sense to speak with a nutritionist to figure out how to maintain proper nutrition while eating satisfying meals.

Ask Your Doctor

If you’re wondering whether you might be a candidate for a gastric band, be sure to talk to your doctor. Generally, gastric band is recommended for patients who have a BMI above 40, or a BMI above 30 with one or more obesity-related health conditions. Other conditions also apply, and your doctor can answer your specific questions.