Gastric Banding: Weight loss surgery when nothing else works

A gastric band is a silicone belt that goes around the top of the stomach, controlling its shape and thereby allowing you to control your hunger and feel full. The gastric band is adjustable and connected to a port that can be inflated over time to speed up weight loss. It may have some impact on cellulite as well.

If you have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of between 35 and 39, and severe medical problems resulting from obesity, you may be a candidate for gastric banding. If your BMI is greater than 40, then you don’t have to have any other medical conditions to be a candidate.

The Gastric Banding Procedure

After a series of small incisions, the surgeon uses a laparoscope to place the band around the top of the stomach and secure it in place with sutures. The port is then placed underneath the skin on the top part of the abdomen. It should take about an hour, is generally performed in a hospital under full anesthesia, and might require an overnight stay.

Recovery From Gastric Banding Surgery

After gastric banding you will need to get used to eating solid foods again. You’ll start with two weeks on a liquid-only-diet, progress to two weeks of semi-solid foods, and then finally solids again.

The stomach must heal from surgery before the first fill. Thus the first adjustment won't happen until around six weeks after surgery. Typically there are four to six adjustments in the first year after surgery. Band adjustments are painless and only require a regular doctor’s office visit.

The weight loss with gastric bands is more gradual than with a gastric bypass. You may lose about five to ten pounds a month, and can expect to lose 2/3 of your extra weight within 2 years of surgery.

Cost of Gastric Banding

Gastric banding can cost from about $17,000 to $30,000. Insurance companies may pay for part or all of the surgery and/or some or all of the fills if you have a history of attempting weight loss before you go for the procedure. Payment plans may also be available.

Risks of Gastric Banding

In addition to the standard risks of most procedures, including bleeding and infection, slippage of the band could occur as you lose weight, causing heartburn or vomiting. Rarely, the band may erode into the inside of the stomach.

Contact a Plastic Surgeon in your area to find out if you are a good candidate for gastric banding or another form of bariatric surgery.

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