The Lap-Band is the second most popular weight loss surgery in the United States. It is a restrictive procedure that causes weight loss by limiting how much food you can eat at a time. It can be performed as an open procedure with a larger cut into the stomach or laparoscopically, with several tiny cuts. The laparoscopic approach will result in shorter healing times.
The surgery involves wrapping an adjustable gastric band around the upper portion of the stomach. Then the band is filled with varying amounts of saline solution. Most surgeons leave the band empty at first.
The Lap-Band requires you to periodically return to the surgeon for fills and sometimes unfills until you find the "sweet spot". This means if the band is not filled enough, it doesn't cause enough restriction. As a result, you will still be able to eat too much food and you won't lose weight or else you'll lose too slowly.
If the band is filled too much, it causes too much restriction, resulting in inability to eat many foods, including healthy foods. You will have problems with food getting stuck, which causes vomiting or even worse, requires a hospital visit so that the stuck food can be removed surgically. The "sweet spot" is the perfect amount of fill where you can still eat some foods without it getting stuck but you end up eating less.
The advantages of the Lap-Band over other popular weight loss surgery types are:
1. It can be reversible with no residual side effects.
2. It involves no cutting of the stomach.
3. There is no rearranging of the intestines and therefore no malabsorption of important vitamins and minerals. Therefore your risk of vitamin deficiencies is much less than with other weight loss surgery procedures.
4. It is adjustable. If you don't have enough restriction, it can be filled to cause more restriction to help you eat less.
5. Weight loss tends to be slower than with other procedures; as a result, you may have less loose skin.
6. There is no dumping syndrome, which is a problem gastric bypass patients can experience after eating foods with too much sugar or fat. Therefore, you are free to try small amounts of different types of food.
7. It is the safest procedure with the lowest mortality rate.
8. Recovery time after surgery is the shortest. Many people leave the hospital the same day of surgery or the day after.
The disadvantages of the Lap-Band are:
1. The band can erode into the stomach, causing tissue damage.
2. The average weight loss for Lap-Band users is usually less than the average of other weight loss surgeries.
3. It may not decrease your appetite at all, unlike other surgical procedures.
4. If you need to have it removed due to erosion, you may not be eligible for another weight loss surgery.
5. You may not lose as much weight as you want.
6. It can be inconvenient having to return to the surgeon to get refills.
Although in theory, all weight loss surgeries can be reversed, it is very dangerous to reverse them. Even though the Lap-Band tends to be the easiest surgery to reverse, there is still some possibility of damage to the stomach. Therefore, it's very important to choose the right weight loss surgery from the start.
If you are afraid of vitamin deficiencies that can result from malabsorptive weight loss surgeries, such as the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or the Duodenal Switch, the Lap-Band may be your best choice. If you don't like the idea of having your stomach cut into at all, then the Lap-Band is your only choice.