Gastric Band Surgery is an option for people who suffer serious health problems due to extreme or morbid obesity and can’t lose weight by any other means such as dieting, healthy eating and exercise.
Designed for people with a BMI (body mass index) of 40 or greater, as well as improving weight loss, it can also help to curb sleep apnoea; a disorder with symptoms such as long pauses between breaths and shallow breathing during sleep. It can also help with diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure (hypertension) and metabolic syndrome (prediabetes). Doctors acknowledge that each person is unique and the procedure will be adapted to suit your needs.
It’s always stressed that although this is the least invasive surgery of its kind, it is not an easy option for obesity sufferers and is considered a drastic step.
The principal is quite straightforward; an inflatable or adjustable silicone band is placed around the upper section of the stomach and locked. This creates a small chamber above the band with a narrow opening to the lower pouch. Made from biocompatible materials, the band can stay in the body without rejection or causing harm. Your surgeon can inflate or adjust it by injecting liquid into a tube via a port under your skin which alters the passage of food. The upper chamber holds only a small portion - around 4oz or half a cup of food (a normal stomach holds around 4 cups of chewed food), so the gastric band severely restricts the amount that can comfortably be consumed at one time before you feel full. A narrowed stomach outlet increases the time it takes for your stomach to empty, the food then travels through your digestive system.
Digestion is slowed down, so the time between eating meals is cut drastically. The fewer calories you consume, the more weight you will lose.
Performed under general anesthetic using keyhole surgery, only a few small incisions are made and although the band is designed to stay in the body long term, the operation is completely reversible. Removing the band can however cause weight gain if you fall back into eating large portions, lack of exercise and an unhealthy regime.
During the procedure a band is wrapped around the upper part of the stomach and stitched. A balloon is enclosed in the band which has a tube that rests just below the surface of the skin. The balloon is inflated with a saline solution until it reaches the right degree of tightness. In effect, this reduces the size of your stomach so you will feel fuller in a shorter amount of time, thereby eating less food.
Weight loss can be expedited and sustained by choosing healthy eating options, reducing appetite and the slower progress of food from the top chamber of the stomach to the lower section. The operation usually entails a relatively short stay in hospital and because no part of the stomach is removed or stapled and the intestines aren’t re-routed, recovery is fast leaving small scars and there is less pain than open surgery procedures.
Following the fitting of a gastric band, you will only eat pureed food for two to three weeks then gradually include soft foods. When you eventually start to eat solids, your stomach will only hold around a tablespoon of food - around the size of a walnut - and you’ll quickly feel full. Over time, your upper pouch may stretch but it still won’t hold more than a cup of food. This drastic decrease in calorie consumption will enable you to lose weight quickly in the first three to six months but there may be side effects: aches and pain, fatigue, dry skin, mood changes and occasionally, hair loss. These symptoms should diminish as your body adapts to your weight loss.