What is Lap-Band Surgery?

For many considering weight loss surgery, gastric banding–or Lap-Band surgery, as it’s more commonly known–is an appealing alternative to gastric bypass surgery.

In the past several years, Lap-Band procedures have gained tremendous popularity as a weight loss surgery treatment for morbidly obese patients. Although performed laparoscopically, it is a major bariatric procedure, and individuals considering the Lap-Band undergo extensive physical and psychological evaluations before undergoing the surgery. Patients who are morbidly obese (with a BMI of 40+) and who suffer from weight-related diseases, such as obstructive sleep apnea and Type II Diabetes, are the most viable candidates. Typical screenings before Lap-Band surgery include blood tests, imaging studies, and a consultation with a psychologist or psychiatrist.

How the Lap-Band Works

Like gastric bypass surgery and the vertical gastroplasty, the Lap-Band procedure promotes rapid and extreme weight loss by creating a small pouch in the top portion of the stomach. However, instead of creating the pouch with surgical staples, the bariatric surgeon fastens a gastric band around the top portion of the stomach like a belt.

Attached to the band is an adjustable balloon that controls the size of the stomach pouch. The surgeon can expand the balloon via a small access port located just under the skin. This allows the surgeon to optimize the size of the stomach for each unique patient, and also make additional adjustments during follow-up visits to promote continued weight loss. These follow-ups, or “fills”, are painless and non-invasive. The doctor injects saline solution into the Lap-Band balloon via the access port to increase the tightness of the band around the stomach pouch and restrict food consumption. A follow-up fill procedure generally takes only 15 minutes and can be done in the doctor’s office.

Benefits of Lap-Band Surgery
The pouch that is created with the Lap-Band procedure can generally hold about 30 ml. As the small pouch fills up quickly after just a few bites, the brain receives a message that the body is full. As a result of the procedure, patients feel fuller faster and get hungry less often, so they eat significantly less and lose weight quickly. On average, Lap-Band patients lose 1-2 pounds per week. Some patients may lose at an even faster rate initially. Although initial weight loss takes longer, current research indicates that over time, weight loss results are comparable to the results from gastric bypass surgery.

In addition, gastric banding is easily reversable–a doctor can remove the Lap-Band in a follow up surgery, if necessary. Many patients choose the Lap-Band procedure for this reason. Unlike the gastric bypass, Lap-Band surgery does not cut or reconnect any part of the stomach or intestine. Gastric banding patients also generally do not have the same issues with nutritional deficiency that can occur with a gastric bypass. On the flip side, however, Lap-Band patients require more frequent follow up visits for band adjustments. And, as with any major surgery, complications are possible. If you are considering weight loss surgery, consult with a bariatric specialist to determine whether the Lap-Band procedure is right for you.

Want to see the Lap-Band in action? Watch this two-minute video about the Lap-Band procedure to understand how adjustable gastric banding promotes rapid weight loss.

Lap-Band image courtesy of Allergan, Inc.

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