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What Is Lap Band Surgery? Questions and answers.

What Is Lap Band Surgery? Questions and answers.

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      Lap band surgery is a weight loss procedure that creates a smaller pouch in the stomach to limit hunger and calorie consumption. Also known as an adjustable gastric band, lap band surgery can be reversible. While lap band surgery is not one of the more well-known weight-loss procedures, it can be an appealing option for people looking for a less-invasive procedure than gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, or duodenal switch. Read on to have your lap band surgery questions answered.

      Q: What is a lap band surgery procedure?

      A: In lap band surgery, an inflatable silicone band is placed around the upper part of the stomach. A small pouch is created to limit the amount of food a person can eat at one time. Band size can be adjusted to increase or decrease the amount of space available for food. That is, the tighter the band, the less you can eat.

      Group of doctors doing surgery.
      Adjustable Gastric band is a weight loss surgery that is minimally invasive and has a relatively quick recovery compared to bariatric surgeries.

      Q: What is the process for lap band surgery?

      A: If you are interested in lap band surgery, you will want to meet with a bariatric surgeon who performs this procedure. Identify your weight loss goals and make necessary lifestyle changes to increase your weight loss success after surgery. Some surgeons like to see you eating smaller, more frequent meals, and even losing some weight before they will schedule you for surgery. Finally, it is crucial to educate yourself on the procedure and post-surgery management of the lap band.

      After surgery, you will need to follow a strict post-op diet to maximize weight loss and to prevent unpleasant complications due to overeating. Similarly, you must go to all of your follow-up appointments. You may need to have your band adjusted to change the width of your stomach to increase your weight loss.

      Q: What is the procedure for lap band surgery?

      A: The surgery is performed laparoscopically. That is, a surgeon inserts a tiny camera into your abdomen to perform the procedure. Most people have between 3 and 5 small surgical cuts for the camera and surgical instruments to operate. The surgeon uses instruments to place and suture the silicone band around the upper part of the stomach. Unlike other weight-loss surgeries, there is no stapling or cutting of organs in your digestive tract.

      A tube connects to the band and is attached to a port that is placed just under the skin on your abdomen. This port allows your surgeon to adjust the size of the band without performing surgery.

      You are placed under general anesthesia for the duration of the procedure, which is usually between 1 to 2 hours. Some centers may discharge you the same day of your surgery, whereas others may prefer you to stay in the hospital overnight.

      Q: What is lap band surgery and recovery like?

      A: Because you are under general anesthesia, you should not feel anything during surgery. After surgery, you may have abdominal and suture pain, which is normal. Fortunately, your surgeon will prescribe medication that can manage your pain. Also, you will be encouraged to walk shortly after surgery to reduce complications from anesthesia.

      Typically, recovery from lap band surgery is more comfortable than other weight-loss surgeries. However, the experience and recovery time varies by each person.

      Q: What is lap band fill?

      A: Lap band fill is the general term for when your surgeon adjusts your band. The band is adjusted by adding or removing saline from the access port. Saline is added if you are not reaching your weight loss goals, or your weight is plateauing. Similarly, saline is removed if you are suffering from unpleasant side effects like nausea or vomiting. Furthermore, your surgeon will not adjust the band until at least 6 weeks after surgery to allow healing.

      Q: What is the difference between lap band and realize band?

      A: LAP-BAND®️ is one example of a brand name for an adjustable gastric band. The REALIZE®️ band is another brand on the market. Much like we usually say Clorox®️ in reference to bleach, adjustable gastric banding is commonly referred to by a common brand name. The realize gastric band has been discontinued and is no longer available.

      Q: What are side effects of lap band?


      • Nausea
      • Vomiting
      • Surgical complications such as problems with the device, bleeding, and infection, slippage, erosion
      • Esophageal reflux
      • Constipation
      • Weight gain
      • Dehydration
      • “Pbing”

      What is pbing lap band, you may ask? “Pbing” stands for productive burping. This is a rather unpleasant side effect of lap band where food comes back up your esophagus. Typically, food gets stuck and is unable to pass the band to enter your stomach.

      Man drinking water in front of a lake.
      Dehydration is a common side effect of lap band. Drinking plenty of water is important for overall health and weight loss.

      Q: What is the recovery time for lap band?

      A: Most people take one week off from work unless they have a physically taxing job. Typically, normal daily activities can be resumed in a few days, but physically demanding tasks - between 6-8 weeks following surgery.

      Q: What is the downtime for lap band surgery?

      A: Recovering from lap band is much quicker than other weight loss procedures. After day-of surgery discharge or one overnight stay, most patients rest for a few days before increasing their activity. It is important to do mild exercises in the days after surgery before increasing back to your regular activity level at around 6 weeks. Indeed, your surgeon will recommend the appropriate amount of downtime based on your individual needs.

      Q: What is the criteria for lap band surgery?

      A: Usually, patients who qualify for a gastric band must have a BMI greater than or equal to 40, or are at least 100 pounds overweight. Similarly, people who have a BMI of 35 or greater with at least one obesity-related comorbidity. Recently the FDA has approved use of Allergan’s Lap-Band for adults who have a BMI 30 to 40 and at least one obesity-related disease. That is, these individuals may have:

      • Type 2 Diabetes
      • High blood pressure
      • Sleep apnea or other respiratory conditions
      • Gastrointestinal disorders
      • Fatty liver
      • High cholesterol
      • Osteoarthritis

      Q: What is the age limit for lap band surgery?

      A: There is no current consensus for an age limit on lap band surgery. However, people ages 65 and older are at greater risk for complications with any procedure. Therefore, it is usually up to the surgeon’s discretion to determine if lap band is not safe for you.

      Q: What is the lap band diet?

      A: Your lap band diet instructions may vary based on your surgeon’s recommendations. However, most people adhere to the following:

      • 1-2 Weeks Post-Op - Liquid Diet
      • 3-4 Weeks Post-Op - Pureed Diet
      • 5 Weeks Post-Op - Soft foods

      Advance to solid foods based on surgeons recommendations

      Consider working with a nutritionist to find creative ways to get essential nutrients in your body. You may need to consider supplements to meet your nutritional needs, especially in the beginning. You may need to return to a liquid diet following band fills to avoid nausea and vomiting.

      Red smoothie in a glass sitting on a table filled with berries and apples.
      A liquid diet allows your stomach to heal and adjust to the band without pressure from solid foods.

      Q: What is the price of lap band surgery?

      A: Many people ask, “what is the average price of lap band surgery.” Indeed, the answer varies based on where you live, who you choose to perform the surgery, and whether or not your insurance covers the cost. However, estimates suggest that the initial surgery costs around $15,000. Many people have the lap band removed, which can cost the same or more, depending on complications. Consult your insurance company to see if you have bariatric surgery coverage.

      Q: What is the difference between lap band and gastric sleeve?

      A: Gastric sleeve is where the stomach is surgically modified into a long tube. That is, a large portion of the stomach is removed.

      Q: What is the difference between lap band and gastric bypass?

      A: Gastric bypass surgery is a two-part procedure. Firstly, the stomach size is reduced to decrease the amount of food intake. Secondly, the small intestine is re-routed to decrease calorie absorption.

      Q: What is safer lap band or gastric bypass?

      A: Both procedures are considered safe and effective. Gastric bypass is one of the most commonly performed bariatric procedures with the highest weight loss success rate. It does have more short term complications compared to lap band. However, lap band has shown a higher rate of long term complications compared to gastric bypass. Your surgeon will guide you in the safest option for you.

      Q: What are the advantages of lap band surgery?

      A: Advantages of gastric lap band include:

      • Reduces the amount of food you can eat at one time
      • Does not involve changing the digestive tract or cutting digestive organs
      • Leads to excess weight loss
      • The lowest risk for deficiencies in essential nutrients
      • The lowest rate of early post-surgery complications compared to other bariatric surgeries
      • Has the shortest post-surgery hospital stay of typically less than 24 hours
      • It is a reversible weight loss procedure

      Q: What are the disadvantages of lap band surgery?

      A: Lab band has become less popular in recent years because it has demonstrated a high risk for long-term complications. Indeed, lap band has the highest rate of revision and re-operation compared to any other weight loss surgery. Disadvantages of gastric lap band include:

      • A foreign object must be placed in your body
      • The band may slip, erode, or mechanical problems may develop
      • The esophagus may dilate with overeating
      • Weight loss is slower and does not occur as quickly after surgery compared to other bariatric surgeries. Similarly, more people fail to lose excess body weight compared to people who have other weight-loss surgeries.
      • People must follow a strict post-op diet
      Woman standing in a grey bodysuit.
      Weight loss is slower with lap band compared to other bariatric surgeries.

      If you are considering weight loss surgery, meet with your bariatric surgeon to discuss what procedure is best for you. Your surgeon will weigh the benefits of the surgery against the risks based on your unique needs.

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        Julia Rae Walker, RN, BSN, BA


        Julia is an experienced critical care nurse with a background in pediatric and adult patient populations. Her passion is helping patients maximize their quality of life.

        Gintas Antanavicius, MD, FACS, FASMBS

        Medical Reviewer

        Dr. G is a co-founder of BariBuilder. A US-based expert surgeon with over 10 years of bariatric experience, he regularly publishes research in medical journals like SOARD, Obesity Surgery, etc.