A gastric band is a surgical solution to obesity, usually chosen by patients for whom dieting and healthy eating options have hitherto proven unsuccessful and where weight issues are having serious effects on their physical or mental wellbeing.
The procedure has had high success rates in recent years, garnering widespread acceptance in no small part as a result of a series of high-profile celebrities who have advocated the use of the operation. The procedure works in combination with a healthier diet plan post-surgery. It allows the patient to feel fuller for longer, greatly reducing their desire to eat and thereby allowing them to lose weight quickly without the empty and dissatisfied sensation left by dieting.
What Is Gastric Band Surgery?
Gastric band surgery involves putting a band around the stomach, dividing it into two creating an effect akin to an hourglass. The top portion will, thereafter, fill far more rapidly, with food slowly trickling through to the lower part of the stomach over a protracted period of time. Consequently, the patient will feel the effects of eating for an extended period of time. â€¨â€¨A number of small incisions are made in the wall of the abdomen. This allows for the insertion of a camera and light by which to oversee the procedure. Further incisions are used to place the band around the stomach.
Originally the band was formed from a marlex mesh but studies in recent years have shown that silicone is by far the most effective material for the band. From the eighties onwards, it also became common to use a band that can be adjusted after the procedure to suit the weight loss needs of the individual patient. â€¨â€¨The band is usually considered to be suitable for patients between the ages of 18 and 55 although in extreme cases it has been used on children, the youngest of whom was aged 12.
Who’s Eligible for Gastric Band Surgery?
Patients tend to have a body mass index of over 40 and are thus considerably over the suggested weight for their age, gender and height. â€¨ â€¨Patients must demonstrate that they have been unresponsive to other methods of treatment for their weight for at least the previous year. There is inevitably a small degree of risk with any operation and the patient needs to be aware of any risks associated with their specific circumstances. They must also understand and embrace the lifelong dietary plan that they will need to follow in the wake of the procedure.
Once the operation has been performed, patients will usually start to lose weight fairly quickly and steadily. On average this will equate to between one and two pounds per week. Heavier patients may lose more weight at the outset. Inevitably the new diet will be difficult to maintain but, aided by the body’s needs, a much improved diet and lifestyle should prove to be sustainable.
There are numerous health risks associated with obesity which are dramatically reduced as a result of the procedure. As they lose weight, patients reduce their exposure to developing type two diabetes, fatty liver disease and various other illnesses linked with being overweight. The subject’s quality of life is also likely to improve as they lose weight and become more active.
What Are the Risks of Gastric Band Surgery?
There are of course a number of risks associated any procedure. However, this operation has been performed safely and successfully since the 1970’s. Research and the fine tuning of surgical techniques and materials are on-going. Recent developments in microscope surgery and in the usage of silicone allow for a far greater degree of surgical control, rendering the procedure relatively non-invasive and reducing the recovery time quite dramatically.
The procedure is likely to leave the patient with some bruising and swelling around the area of operation and this may cause some discomfort as it heals. There are a few side effects that may occur in the immediate aftermath of the operation. Patients will need to dramatically alter their eating habits, requiring a change in their attitude to food.
In some cases, the subject may feel some discomfort or pain whilst eating in the early stages after the procedure as the body acclimatizes. However these after effects tend to pass quickly and can be limited by following the advice of the surgeon.
What Complications Can Occur?
Complications rarely occur during or after the procedure as this is a routine operation. However, they have occurred in isolated cases and patients should be aware of the risks before electing to undergo the operation. After the procedure it is possible to develop an infection around the gastric band or in the surgical wounds, associated with which may be a chest infection. Modern hygiene and surgical procedures should mitigate any such risk.
The risk of injury to other organs, particularly in cases of extreme obesity, may require the surgeon may to make the switch to open surgery during the procedure. Similarly, unforeseen complications may lead to the surgeon increasing the size of the incision which will in turn result in a longer recovery time for the patient. These are the primary risks during and in the immediate aftermath of the operation. Although they are rare, patients need to be aware of them.
More common but far less serious side effects may develop in response to the procedure. Rapid weight loss can lead to the development of gallstones which can be painful and sometimes require an operation for their removal. There is also the risk that the band will slip slightly at some point in your life, it may leak, deflate or work its way through the wall of the stomach. In these cases the band may need to be repositioned, replaced or removed. Around one in ten patients will need to have their band repositioned at some point in their life although this is a fairly uncomplicated procedure in itself. â€¨â€¨The rewards in terms of weight loss and associated health improvement should more than offset the risk factors.
Article contributor:Â Tara West