The gastric band operation is a restrictive surgery in which a band is placed around the top section of the stomach forming a small pouch.
Saline is injected through a port, which is placed just under the skin, and tubing connects the port to the band. The band is inflated by piercing the port with a needle and injecting the saline into the band. This makes the outlet between the pouch and the stomach, called the stoma, much reduced. The patient can then only eat a small portion of food as this is held in the pouch and after a period of time travels slowlythrough the stoma into the main part of the stomach, keeping the patient feeling full for much longer. As much less food, and therefore calories, are consumed, weight loss occurs.
Band fills are a very important consideration as without adequate provision for this before surgery, weight loss will be difficult to achieve. Band fills will be needed throughout the life of the band but initially several will be required before enough restriction is felt to begin weight loss. It is important for the patient to realise that weight loss will not begin until this restriction is achieved. There is a temptation to have a large amount of fill injected the first time, and while this can aid a quicker start to weight loss, the evidence shows that it can lead to more problems over the longer term. It is therefore advised to have fills of smaller amounts, gradually building up to optimum restriction. Gastric bands are not a quick-fix for weight loss but rather a long-term solution for obesity.
Advantages of the gastric band
- Completely reversible procedure, no anatomical alteration
- Quick recovery from surgery, low risk of complications
- No strict supplement regime to follow, although patients are advised to take one good multivitamin a day
- Long term control
- Complete adjustability of restriction level
Disadvantages of the gastric band
- Slower initial weight loss, restriction takes time to achieve with band fills
- Band fills necessary for the life of the band
- Restriction can be difficult to live with at times
- Some foods are not well tolerated while restricted, limited diet may be required while in the weight loss stage It is possible to sabotage the surgery by eating high calorie soft food that will pass through the pouch quickly Without adequate aftercare and band fills, weight loss will be difficult to achieve
- Slippage of the band can occur which may result in band removal
- It can be difficult to achieve the optimum level of restriction and some patients find themselves swaying between being overfilled and underfilled, and this can take several adjustments to get right
Living with a gastric band
I started my weight loss journey in March 2005 weighing nearly 17 stone. I had been overweight from childhood and had tried many conventional weight loss programmes with varying degrees of success, but always seemed to regain the weight. I finally realised that I needed some help if I was ever going to slim successfully. Fortunately, I wasn't suffering any health issues due to my weight but felt that it was only a matter of time before my health would begin to suffer. I was 27 and felt that I had missed out on a lot due to my lack of confidence associated with my weight. My operation was performed laparascopically and I left the hospital the following morning, returning to work 2 weeks later. I followed my surgery provider's recommended diet plan for the first month, which consisted of two weeks of clear fluids and a further two weeks of food with a soft consistency. My diet then returned to normal until my first band fill at 6 weeks post op. It took a further two band fills, each six weeks apart, before I felt enough restriction to see me consistently lose weight. I then lost a steady 2-3 lbs per week, which lead me to lose nearly seven stone over a period of 18 months. I had a slight regain after a defill for plastic surgery but am confident of losing this quickly after a further band fill.
I now wear size 12 clothes and am much more active and happy than I was before surgery. I have found that I enjoy running and cycling and would like to enter a marathon one day. I have recently completed a 60 mile charity bike ride from Manchester to Blackpool, something I could never have done at a size 20.