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The Lap Band (Gastric Banding)

Lap Band illustrationThe Lap Band System refers to a form of weight-loss surgery during which a gastric band is inserted around the top of the stomach in order to reduce the volume of food the stomach will hold at one time (gastric banding). This popular procedure curbs hunger, which in turn leads to significant weight-loss. The term 'Lap Band' derives from the laparoscope (a small camera) the surgeon uses and the gastric band he or she inserts. The only FDA-approved procedure for weight-loss, the Lap Band procedure places a silicone band around the top portion of the stomach; this has the effect of dividing the stomach into two sections.

The band has an inner balloon that is connected by tubing to an access port, which is placed deep under the skin of the abdomen. Saline is injected into the port and makes its way to the band. This makes the opening from the top portion of the stomach smaller, thereby restricting food intake. By reducing or increasing the amount of fluid in the band, the doctor can adjust it to fit the individual patient. The tightness of the band correlates directly to the amount of satiety (feeling of fullness) felt throughout the day.

Benefits of the Lap Band

The following is a list of the most important benefits:

  • Satiety (feeling of fullness) — Lap Band procedure works by providing satiety. This feeling typically lasts between meals and helps patients develop positive eating behaviors. Even without fluid, the Lap Band procedure provides a sense of satiety by surrounding nerves that would otherwise send messages of hunger to the brain and central nervous system.
  • Adjustable — The ability to adjust the amount of fluid in the band allows patients to customize the effect of the Lap Band procedure by regulating the amount of food entering the stomach.
  • Compatible with Pregnancy — The Lap Band can be adjusted to open the stomach outlet in order to accommodate increased nutritional need.
  • Minimally Invasive — Because there is no cutting and rerouting of the stomach and intestines, the Lap Band procedure is ten times safer than gastric bypass and does not require an overnight hospital stay. Recovery from weight-loss surgery is typically quick, and patients are able to return home in a matter of hours.
  • Reversible — Unlike gastric bypass surgery, the Lap Band procedure is reversible because the band can be removed at any time (however, this is general not recommended).
  • Low Incidence of Side Effects — Unlike gastric bypass surgery, the Lap Band procedure rarely results in nutritional deficiencies.

The Lap Band can also reverse, reduce or prevent many complications associated with obesity:

  • Asthma: 93% of patients saw improvements or resolution after 1 year
  • Type II Diabetes: 90% of patients saw improvements or resolution after 1 year
  • Sleep Apnea: 93% of patients saw improvements or resolution after 1 year
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux: 90% of patients saw improvements or resolution after 1 year
  • High Blood Pressure: 79% of patients saw improvements or resolution after 1 year


Certain requirements for weight-loss surgery were established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the early 1990s and have not changed. According to the NIH, the Lap Band procedure and other weight-loss surgeries are only suitable for people who 1) have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 or 2) have a BMI of 35 to 39 coupled with severe medical problems (co-morbid conditions) such as diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol.

Before paying for Lap Band surgery or other types of weight-loss surgery, such as gastric bypass surgery, most insurance companies require a proven history of attempts at weight-loss.

Aftercare and Recovery from the Lap Band Procedure

Most people who undergo the Lap Band procedure go home the same day and are able to return to work within a week. Patients are typically given a dietary plan (including vitamin supplements) that first consists of liquids (for a few weeks), followed by soft foods and, later on, solid foods. Patients are also given an exercise program, which is key to a successful outcome. Some people are advised to seek behavioral modification therapy as well.

Following the procedure, Lap Band patients may need to visit the doctor's office several times. The average patient needs six to eight adjustments over the first 18 months after the procedure.

Potential Complications

Like all surgeries, the Lap Band procedure carries a small risk of complications such as bleeding and infection. Potential complications specific to the Lap Band procedure include:

  • Slippage of the band, which can cause heartburn and/or vomiting
  • Band Erosion
  • Band Deflation due to leakage
  • Enlargement of the stomach pouch
  • Blockage of the stoma (stomach outlet)