But a new study from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has found that people who undergo surgery to have lap bands placed around their stomachs often need one or more new operations to move or remove the device.
Here’s what you need to know about lap bands and Dr. Dirk’s expert opinion of them.
What are lap bands?
Laparoscopic gastric banding (also known as lap bands) work by placing a band around the upper part of the stomach, which a little pouch that holds about 1 ounce of food. The food from the small pouch then empties into the closed-off portion of the stomach and continues the normal digestive process.
The band limits the amount of food you can eat by making you feel full after eating a small amount of food. After the surgery, the band can be adjusted to make food pass more quickly or slowly through your stomach.
What are the findings of the new study?
The University of Michigan study found that one in five people who had a lap band procedure needed more surgery within five years of the procedure.
Lap bands can cause a variety of complications. They can erode into the stomach or slip down and cause a blockage. Problems can also happen if the stomach pouch gets bigger.
The study followed more than 25,000 people with lap bands and found that 18.5 percent of patients (4,636 patients) needed at least one more surgery to fix problems.
Those 4,636 patients required more than 17,500 surgeries for their lap bands. That’s an average of nearly four additional surgeries per patient!
Doctors have known about these risks for a few years, which is why lap bands have grown less and less popular in recent years.
What is Dr. Dirk’s professional opinion of lap bands?
“This study shows what we have known for almost 10 years,” Dr. Dirk says. “The adjustable gastric band is not the fantastic solution everyone thought it was going to be.”
According to Dr. Dirk, the fact that lap bands can have as high as an 80 percent failure rate, plus the new data about multiple follow-up operations, means that lap bands are a not a good idea.
“Lap bands involve placing an artificial device right next to the stomach,” says Dr. Dirk. “The stomach moves hundreds of times a day, so the device moves with it. Add to that coughing, sneezing, lifting and getting in and out of the car, and the band is constantly moving about.”
That’s where the problem happens. Bands end up slipping, and this is the most common cause of re-operation.
While less invasive procedures like this may seem like a good idea, Dr. Dirk says the lap band has had a long track record of failure.
“Don’t be swayed by gimmicks or fancy advertising promising a ‘less invasive’ option,” says Dr. Dirk. “In the long run, they don’t work.”
Instead, he recommends making real lifestyle changes, like eating a healthy diet and exercising every day. If these solutions don’t help, weight loss surgery — not the lap band — can be an effective solution.