Gastric band surgery (also referred to as a LAP-BAND®) is an effective option for people who suffer from serious health problems due to extreme or morbid obesity and can’t lose weight naturally through diet and exercise.
As a type of weight loss (bariatric) surgery, a gastric band involves a minimally invasive technique that essentially constricts the stomach so a person will quickly feel full after eating only a small amount of food. This reduced calorie intake, in most cases, leads to drastic weight loss.
Am I Suitable for a Gastric Band?
Gastric bands are usually indicated for people with a BMI (body mass index) of 40 or greater. As well as encouraging weight loss, a gastric band can also:
- Help to curb sleep apnea; a disorder with symptoms such as long pauses between breaths and shallow breathing during sleep.
- Help with diabetes and metabolic syndrome (prediabetes).
- Decrease pain associated with osteoarthritis.
- Tackle high blood pressure (hypertension)
Doctors acknowledge that each person is unique and the procedure will be adapted to suit your needs.
Although this is the least invasive surgery of its kind, it must be stressed that bariatrics is not an easy option for obesity sufferers and is considered a drastic step. Do consult with a specialist who will be able to confirm your suitability.
How to Prepare
Once you are cleared for surgery and your procedure date is scheduled, your surgical team will give you instructions on how to prepare.17
These instructions may include:
- Stopping smoking several months prior to surgery
- Meeting with a bariatric registered dietitian weeks or months before surgery to learn about food preparation and what your post-surgical diet plan will look like
- Consuming a low-calorie diet for about two weeks prior to surgery (to reduce liver volume, which can help the surgeon during the operation)18
- Stopping certain medications for a period of time before surgery (for example, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, or NSAIDs)
- Refraining from eating or drinking anything after midnight on the eve of your surgery
- Packing personal items (e.g., toothbrush) for your hospital stay
A gastric band is fitted under general anesthesia. It is usually done in an outpatient clinic, and the individual usually goes later the same day.
The procedure is minimally invasive. It is performed through keyhole incisions. The surgeon makes between one and five small surgical cuts in the abdomen. Surgery is carried out using a laparoscope, a long narrow tube with a camera. The procedure often takes 30 to 60 minutes.
The patient should not eat from midnight before the day of the surgery. Most people can resume most normal activities within 2 days, but they may need to take a week’s leave from work.
The procedure takes about a half-hour. Patient can normally go home one to two hours after the procedure is finished.
While recovering in the hospital after gastric bypass surgery, your surgical team will monitor your vital signs carefully and help control common post-surgical symptoms like pain, nausea, and vomiting.19
On the morning of the second day after your surgery, you will begin sipping small, but frequent amounts of clear liquids. If you are tolerating clear liquids, you might be able to advance to full liquids (including protein shakes) by lunchtime.10
You will engage in some form of physical activity (usually leg exercises) with the assistance of your nurse. Soon thereafter, you will begin getting out of bed and walking around. If you are experiencing any difficulties performing these exercises (perhaps due to post-surgical weakness or obesity-related mobility problems), your nurse or surgeon may call a physical therapist to assist you.20
Upon discharge, your surgeon will give you specific instructions about recovering at home. You will likely be asked to:
- Keep the incision site(s) clean and dry.
- Avoid strenuous activities for three to six weeks after surgery.
- Avoid heavy lifting for three months after surgery.
- Gradually increase your activity every day (by six weeks, you should be walking two miles or more a day).
- Maintain a full liquid diet that can slowly be advanced (under the guidance of your dietitian) to pureed and soft foods. By about six weeks, based on your individual tolerance, you will be able to eat solid foods.21
- Take daily nutritional supplements (complex multivitamin, calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin C, and vitamin B12). 2
LAP-BAND surgery in the US can be prohibitively expensive, with an average price tag of around $15,000, which can often increase to $30,000 when all medical bills are totaled.
In comparison, the average cost of this same procedure abroad, such as in Mexico or Turkey, is $5,000-$8,000.