If you have gastric band
surgery, a restrictive, inflatable band is placed around the top of your
stomach to limit the amount of food you can eat. Even a very small meal makes
you feel full, so you eat only a fraction of what you might have been used to.
Some people may regard it
as an easy option compared to constantly watching your diet and increasing the
level of exercise that you do, but both these lifestyle changes are still
important if you have the surgery. You also need to take into account the risks
involved; having major abdominal surgery is certainly not an easy option and
should be seen as a last resort, rather than a quick fix.
The popularity of gastric band surgery
The operation is becoming
more popular in western society, where the rates of obesity are reaching
epidemic proportions. Obesity is associated with many chronic health problems
and for some people, the risk of the operation may outweigh the risk of
remaining overweight. Gastric band surgery is certainly an effective method of
weight loss. Most people lose around 60% of their excess weight in the two
years after gastric band surgery.
What does gastric band surgery involve?
Having gastric band
surgery requires a short stay in hospital as it must be done under general
anaesthetic. The surgeon makes four or five small incisions in the abdomen and
introduces a band that is fixed in place around the top of the stomach. This
slows down movement of food into the rest of the stomach. Everything that you
eat after gastric band surgery remains in the top pouch, creating a feeling of
fullness until the food passes very slowly into the bottom part of the stomach
and then into the intestines for digestion.
Although this is a type of
keyhole surgery, any abdominal surgery, particularly on someone who is
overweight carries risks. Around 2000 people each year die as a result of
gastric band surgery – some due to complications immediately after the surgery,
the others as a result of infections or problems that arise afterwards. If you
are considering gastric band surgery, the risks of the operation will be
discussed with you in detail and you should be very sure that you want to go
ahead before signing the consent form.
What to expect after gastric band surgery
The day after gastric band
surgery, your abdomen will feel sore and you might feel sick from the
anaesthetic. This wears off quickly and you should start by taking just sips of
liquid to begin with, until you feel you can get up and about easily. You will
be allowed home once any wound drains and your catheter have been removed. You
should arrange for someone to be with you for about 48 hours afterwards and
take things easy for a couple of weeks. Most people find they recover
completely in 2-3 weeks and can drive again safely after that time.
Can you have gastric band surgery on the NHS?
The National Health
Service does offer gastric band surgery as a treatment for obesity but it is
usually restricted to people who have a clear clinical need to lose weight.
Generally, people with a body mass index of over 40 and who have underlying
health problems such as heart disease, severe sleep apnoea (in which they stop
breathing during sleep) or diabetes are considered, but only if they have tried
other treatments beforehand. Patients are eligible for gastric band surgery
only if they are fit and healthy enough to cope with the risks of the surgery
and only if they agree to follow a tough regime afterwards, provided by a
specialised obesity clinic.
Gastric band surgery in the private sector
The number of requests for
gastric band surgery rose by 41% between 2007 and 2008, fuelled by greater
awareness that the operation is possible. This has partly come from high
profile celebrities such as Fern Britton and Anne Diamond, who have both had
gastric band surgery. Many people who want weight loss surgery do not meet NHS
criteria and opt to have the operation done privately. This can cost between
£7000 and £8000 in the UK.
Some people have decided
to have gastric band surgery done in other parts of the EU at about half that
cost. This often works well but there have been reports of gastric bands not
being fitted correctly, and the medical team providing no follow up, gastric
band adjustments or aftercare.
Losing weight after gastric band surgery
Adjusting to the gastric
band takes a little time. Some people find they still eat too much and become
very uncomfortable and experience nausea and vomiting. People who have had
gastric band surgery need to make sure they lose weight but don’t miss out on
nutrition. It is no use just eating smaller amounts of junk food. The smaller
amounts of food that you eat following gastric band surgery must be packed with
the vitamins, minerals, protein and other essential nutrients you need to stay
The inflation level of the
gastric band can be changed to achieve the best results and this may need to be
done two or three times after the actual gastric band surgery. Most people find
that the weight loss is rapid and sustained after surgery with even the very
obese losing a large proportion of their excess body weight within the year
Gastric band surgery and pregnancy
Women who have had
successful gastric band surgery and attained a healthy weight but who then
decide to become pregnant are likely to need to have the gastric band adjusted
during pregnancy and breast feeding. They need extra nutrients and the gastric
band, which is inflatable, can be deflated to let more food through during this
time. Once breast feeding is established, the band can be re-inflated to
encourage weight loss if required.