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What is a gastric band?

Gastric banding is an effective weight loss surgery procedure used to help obese individuals achieve significant and long-term weight loss.

Gastric banding is performed using laparoscopic surgery, where a small inflatable band is fitted around the top of a patientís stomach; this reduces the stomach capacity and therefore limits the food intake. The band can be adjusted by introducing a saline solution into a small access port placed just under the skin, the more saline the tighter the band and less space for the food to pass through.

This procedure is considered the least invasive of the bariatric procedures and is completely reversible, unlike a gastric bypass where the internal digestive organs are permanently altered.

Who qualifies for a gastric band?

This procedure has been specifically designed for obese patients with a body mass index of 40 or greater, as well as for patients who suffer from chronic or life threatening complications associated with obesity such as diabetes, coronary heart disease or Hypertension.

What can I expect during the procedure?

A gastric band operation is usually done under general anaesthesia, it usually takes about an hour to complete.

First, a small incision is made near the belly button. Carbon dioxide is introduced into the abdomen to create a work space for the surgeon. Then a small laparoscopic camera is placed through the incision into the abdomen. The camera sends a picture of the stomach and abdominal cavity to a video monitor. It gives the surgeon a good view of the key structures in the abdominal cavity.

The surgeon will make an additional four to five small cuts on the upper abdomin, necessary to accommodate all the surgical instruments needed to connect the gastric band around the stomach and lock it in place.

The injection port is now positioned and fixed just under the skin for easy access, so as the band adjustments-post surgery-can be completed. The incisions are then stitched closed

Maintenance after the procedure

When the gastric band is first inserted, it only contains a small amount of saline inside, which generally has little or no impact on the stomachís capacity or food intake. Only once a patient has fully recovered from the operation will the first band adjustment be made.

The adjustment is carried out in the surgeon's rooms and is done by inserting a needle into the port in your stomach to add or remove saline from the band as needed. There may be several visits required to adjust the band to its optimal level, if the band is too tight little or no food will pass through, similarly if the band is too loose there will be no benefit to the procedure as all the food will pass through unhindered.

Over a period of time, the band will need to be adjusted further to compensate for the ongoing weight loss. Once optimum weight is achieved, the tightness of the band may be reduced slightly or even completely, depending on the individualís ability to keep the weight off.

Are there any side-effects of the gastric band procedure?

Gastric banding has very few side effects compared to other bariatric procedures, although as with any surgery, there is some degree of risk.

Surgical Complications include-

  • Wound infection
  • Leaks or perforations causing internal infection

Post Surgery Side-effects and Complications include-

  • Vomiting- Can either be caused by incorrect eating habits or the outflow of the gastric pouch becoming too narrow for the food to pass through. This means that the band will need adjusting.
  • Constipation- Due to the reduced food intake which leads to fewer bowel movements.
  • Hair loss- Although temporary is due to the sudden shock in the reduction of food, once the body stabilises, the hair will grow back normally
  • Band Problems- The band could be damaged during insertion or break post surgery and will need to be replaced
  • Band Migration - This occurs when the band migrates through the stomach wall into the stomach lumen. Patients who have their bands filled quickly and with high total volumes have an increased risk of migration. Filling must be slow and gradual.
  • Port Problems - The port may move around, which makes difficult if not impossible to inject the saline to adjust the band, a simple operation using local anesthesia to fix the problem is generally advised at this point. Perforation of the connecting tube close to the port is another possible complication. This is also corrected using local anesthesia.

Will my medical Aid cover Gastric banding?

This depends on which medical aid you are with and which plan of that Medical aid you chose. But yes, the procedure should be covered by most medical aids. It is advised to consult the medical aid to determine this.


Author: South African Spas