Thanks to advances in modern medicine, there are now numerous ways for people who are overweight or obese to lose weight and get healthy. One of the newer methods for weight loss is the adjustable gastric band. This method, though it involves some risks, can be a very effective way to lose weight.
What Is The Adjustable Gastric Band?
The adjustable gastric band (also known as the “Lap-Band”) is a specific product that is surgically implanted to help an individual lose weight. This process of gastric banding is used to limit the amount of food that people eat so that they feel full faster and will lose the weight by reducing their caloric intake. The band is unique in that it can be adjusted through subsequent procedures in order to accommodate the individual’s specific weight loss goals and health needs.
Gastric banding is typically approved only for those who have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40. However, some patients with a BMI of 30-40 may be approved if they also have obesity-related health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure. Utilizing an adjustable gastric band for weight loss requires a lifelong commitment to eating less food, so it’s important for patients considering the surgery to talk about all options with their doctor.
Patients getting an adjustable gastric band will usually have the band implanted through laparoscopic surgery. After the patient receives general anesthesia, the surgeon will make several small incisions in the abdomen. The adjustable silicone band will then be wrapped around the upper part of the stomach to create a small pouch at the top. During this time, cameras and surgical instruments are inserted into the small incisions to help the surgeon complete the procedure.
The surgery is typically about an hour in length and patients can often go home the same day. Doctors advise those who have had gastric banding to wait until at least a few days after their surgery to return to normal activities.
Adjusting The Band
An important part of the gastric banding surgery is connecting the adjustable gastric band to a port just under the skin using a length of tubing. This port can be accessed later on after adjust the band without needing surgery. The size of the opening between the upper and lower parts of the stomach can be controlled by inflating or deflating a balloon with saline solution.
There are several reasons that an individual may need the band to be adjusted, including:
- Difficulties when eating
- Vomiting after eating
- Not losing enough weight
- Losing too much weight too quickly
- Food is passing too slowly or too quickly through the digestive system
Regular follow-up visits to the doctor should be scheduled following a gastric banding surgery. During these appointments, doctors can assess whether a patient’s gastric band needs to be adjusted in order to allow the patient to eat more or less food. In some cases, another surgery is required later on to reposition or remove the band, particularly if an individual has not lost weight after their initial surgery.
Once the gastric band has been applied, patients will experience significant differences when it comes to how much food they eat. Because there is now a small pouch at the top of the stomach, they will feel full as soon as that area of the stomach fills up. According to the FDA, most individuals with an adjustable gastric band will only be able to eat about a quarter cup of food at a time, and eating more than that could cause complications like nausea or vomiting. (1) The first month or two after surgery is often the most difficult as patients have to get used to eating very little and must add foods back into their diet very slowly.
In addition to eating less, people with gastric banding are also expected to eat healthier and exercise regularly in order to achieve their weight loss goals. In short, just having the surgery is not sufficient for losing weight; the patient will also have to actively make better choices in order to get healthier.
Although the adjustable gastric band can be very effective, it is not an instant weight loss tool. Weight loss with gastric banding occurs slowly and continues for up to three years. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average weight loss is about one-third to one-half of the extra weight a person is carrying. (2)
The adjustable gastric band is a great weight loss tool for those who are struggling with obesity, but it is not for everyone. The use of this weight loss procedure is only for those who are wholly committed to eating healthier and remaining physically active. Talk to your doctor about gastric banding to find out if it is right for you.