Adjustable Gastric Banding Surgery
You’ve likely heard about the weight loss surgery referred to as a Lap-Band but you might not realize that it’s actually a brand name. Adjustable gastric banding (AGB) is the medical term for a weight loss surgery that became popular during the early 2000s. It has become less common in recent years, but the procedure is still available and has some support in the worldwide medical community.*
What is Adjustable Gastric Band Surgery?
AGB surgery starts with creating a small chamber at the top of the stomach which becomes food’s first stop after leaving the esophagus. The fist-sized chamber makes overeating uncomfortable and also increases the amount of time the food remains in the stomach, fostering feelings of fullness. It thus partially overcomes the natural time lag between eating and when patients feel full.
AGB is one of the first procedures to be performed with minimally invasive laparoscopic technology, which led to the Lap-Band name. It is the only brand currently approved by the FDA for use in the United States.
How is AGB Surgery Performed?
The procedure is performed with a laparoscope, a tiny camera that allows the doctor to perform surgery via small incisions without open surgery. It is the least invasive weight loss procedure and the only one that can be reversed if desired.
An AGB procedure begins with a small incision that allows the camera and surgical tools to enter the body. The surgeon then places a silicone band around the upper portion of the stomach while monitoring their progress on a video monitor. Next, the surgeon manipulates the band so that it squeezes off a small area at the top of the stomach to create a small chamber or pouch. The surgeon will tighten the inflatable band by adding fluid. Finally, a device will be placed under the skin connected to the band. During subsequent minor procedures, the port will be used later on to adjust the band’s tightness by adding or draining fluid.
Once the patient has been in recovery long enough to start eating solid food, it will enter the pouch and slowly move on to the rest of the stomach where it will be digested normally.
Why is Bariatric Surgery Necessary?
While obese people too often face discrimination based on their appearance, obesity is not a cosmetic issue – it’s a serious health problem. It puts individuals at risk for many serious health problems, including stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Moreover, it can also cause or worsen pain related to multiple issues from ordinary aches and pains to arthritis, sciatica, and so on. Over time, it can devastate a person’s quality of life and may sometimes trigger clinical depression.
Severely obese individuals have every reason to want to lose weight. Millions try multiple weight loss programs and special diets. No matter how medically sound weight loss approaches may be, some patients will reach their goal weight but nearly all will backslide sooner or later. The statistics on long-term substantial weight loss without bariatric surgery are truly dismal. Why?
In theory, simply eating less and exercising more should be sufficient to defeat obesity but science and the experience of millions say that something is wrong with the equation. The problem boils down to the fact that our bodies are designed to avoid starvation. So, the same mechanisms that helped our ancestors survive lean times ironically now threaten our well-being.
The more weight we lose, the more our body tries to sabotage our efforts by releasing hormones that make us feel hungry even when we’ve had more than to eat. Instead of getting used to eating less as soldier on and continue losing weight, our body redoubles its efforts to try and force us to gain more fat in advance of a famine that never comes. Over time, nearly everyone backslides – a few may be able to maintain a portion of their loss but they are the exception; many people end up with a few extra pounds.
Bariatric surgeries are the only means we now have of giving severely obese people a fair shot at achieving their weight goals. If you ever hear someone refer to weight loss surgery as “the easy way out,” inform them that it’s usually the only way out.
Adjustable Gastric Banding vs. Other Weight Loss Surgeries
Weight loss surgeries have helped millions move on to healthier and happier lives but gastric band procedures specifically are less frequently recommended than before. While AGBs are the least invasive procedure, have the shortest recovery time, and are the only reversible bariatric surgery, they may result in weight losses that disappoint patients and their doctors. The result is that some patients have their bands removed while more get other procedures.
The AGB was once the leading alternative to a gastric bypass – a powerful but radical procedure that significantly alters the digestive process. Today, however, sleeve gastrectomy offers a less drastic option that has been proven to produce similar results with fewer risks for most patients.
The reason bypass and sleeve procedures are so powerful appears to be related to the fact that they diminish the stomach – either bypassing it or removing 75 to 85 percent of it; doing so appears to greatly reduce the production of ghrelin, the hormone that tells our brains we need to eat more than we need.
The Current Role of the Adjustable Gastric Band
Despite the issues we’ve described, AGBs remain an option for patients and, of course, no two patients are ever alike. At Beverly Hills Physicians, we make it a point to treat everyone like the unique individual they are; the only way to find out which procedure is best for you is to come in for an initial consultation. If a banding procedure sounds attractive to you, please feel free to discuss all of the available options with your weight loss specialist.
Ready to Learn More About Bariatric Surgery?
At Beverly Hills Physicians our team of compassionate and expert health professionals is here to answer all of your questions. Get in touch with us today!
* “Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, the past, the present and the future,” Annals of Translational Medicine. Niccolò Furbetta, Rosa Cervelli, and Francesco Furbetta. March 10, 2020.