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Everything You Need to Know About the LAP-BAND®

Many patients who have struggled with their weight for years consider Lap-Band surgery as a permanent solution for their weight loss troubles. There are positive and negative aspects to any surgery, but most patients who have not succeeded in losing weight by changing their diet and exercise routines have found success with the Lap-Band surgery solution.

What is the Lap-Band?

The Lap-Band looks similar to a small belt with inflatable chambers that line the inner surface so that the device can be tightened or loosened as necessary. It is placed around the uppermost part of the stomach via laparoscopic surgery. During the procedure, a laparoscope is inserted through a small incision near the belly button to give the surgeon a clear view inside the abdomen. Then, a few more small incisions are made to insert the Lap-Band and secure it around the stomach.

The procedure is minimally invasive and reduces the amount of food a person is able to consume by shrinking the size of the stomach. It also increases the amount of time it takes for the stomach to empty, making patients feel hungry less often. Unlike gastric bypass procedures, the Lap-Band does not compromise the actual anatomy of the stomach permanently.

The bands are constructed with biocompatible materials so they are not commonly rejected by the body. There are five sizes available for the Lap-Band solution.

Who Are the Best Candidates?

The best candidates for Lap-Band surgery are those who are at least 100 pounds heavier than the ideal weight for their height. They should also be between the ages of 18 and 55 and have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40. Most surgeons will perform the operation on a patient with a BMI between 30 and 40 if the patient has a disease that is likely to be improved by weight loss. These diseases include hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, high cholesterol, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Doctors usually place their obese patients on a medically supervised diet for about six months to see if they are able to lose weight by changing their diet before performing Lap-Band surgery.

Lap-Band surgery is not recommended for patients who have hypothyroidism or other endocrine diseases that aren’t being treated, severe cardiopulmonary distress, dependency on drugs or alcohol, or inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Patients who plan to become pregnant usually have their Lap-Band deflated during pregnancy and birth. Patients who have undergone other weight-loss surgeries in the past should talk to their doctors about the possibility and potential complications of the Lap-Band surgery. Lap bands have been shown to be effective even in patients who have undergone failed weight-loss procedures in the past.

Post-Surgical Care

Patients should remove the dressing from their surgical site within 48 hours of surgery. Heavy-lifting should be avoided for at least the first six weeks following surgery. Most doctors schedule follow-up visits for their Lap-Band patients every six weeks for at least the first year. The Lap-Band may be adjusted as needed during these appointments. Patients are encouraged to make permanent lifestyle changes including a healthy diet for the best results. Most patients will be able to eat about one-third of the amount of food they were eating before undergoing Lap-Band surgery.

Pros of Lap-Band Surgery

The biggest pro of Lap-Band surgery, and the reason that people have the surgery, is expedited weight loss. Most patients lose around fifty percent of their excess body weight after Lap-Band surgery, usually within a year. Patients also enjoy the health benefits of weight loss such as reduced risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Patients also find it easier to exercise and feel more motivated. Patients also appreciate that the surgery can be reversed if necessary.

Cons of Lap-Band Surgery

Patients lose weight slower after Lap-Band surgery than they do after gastric bypass or other more drastic surgeries. Some patients have trouble eating certain foods after their surgery and food must be chewed very thoroughly so that it passes easily through the stomach. People who have had this surgery must also get used to eating significantly less food than they were able to eat in the past. Nausea and vomiting have also been reported by some patients as they began eating regular foods.

There are inherent risks in any surgery, and the Lap-Band is no different. Complications such as the band’s erosion through the stomach wall have occurred, although rarely. It’s important that your doctor clearly communicates any risks involved before you make your decision.

Controversy Surrounding the Lap-Band

Five patients who underwent the Lap-Band procedure in clinics associated with the 1-800-GET-THIN advertising campaign have died since 2009. Allergen, the Lap-Band’s manufacturer, has since refused to sell their device to clinics associated with the campaign, and the clinics involved are being investigated for insurance fraud.

While this is certainly bad press for the Lap-Band, potential patients should rest assured that these incidences were most likely related to objectionable surgeons who 1) weren’t competent in their practice and 2) did not openly communicate all risks involved with the surgery to their patients.

This is why it is of extreme importance to choose an experienced, reliable surgeon with a clean record who is board-certified and prioritizes your best interests.

Weight-loss surgery isn’t for everyone, but Lap-Band surgery has been shown to be one of the most effective and least invasive options. It has helped thousands of people around the world lose weight and improve their health. Talk to your doctor if you think you are a Lap-Band candidate.

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