Picture an inflatable belt wrapped around the top portion of a balloon. That’s similar to how laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB)—often referred to by the branded name LAP-BAND®—works: a bariatric surgeon places an adjustable band around the top portion of a person’s stomach. When it tightens, the band creates a smaller stomach pouch, which fills quickly and can help a person to feel full after only eating a small portion of food. That means he or she will eat less but feel full for a longer amount of time than before the surgery. That, in turn, can lead to weight loss.

If you’re considering an adjustable gastric band procedure, make an appointment with your primary care physician and ask if this surgery might be a fit for you. He or she, along with a bariatric surgeon and team of healthcare professionals, can help guide you.

Here are the basics of what you should know about laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding.  

Who should consider laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding?

LAGB surgery is an option for severely obese people for whom dieting has failed and who suffer or may suffer from diseases that can be caused by obesity. Patients should have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40, or a BMI of 30 or more along with at least one weight-related health condition, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea or others. People who opt for this surgery should be committed to changing the way they eat, and their lifestyle, for the rest of their lives.

What does the procedure entail?

You will be under general anesthesia for the procedure. The surgeon will make one or more small incisions in the skin near the stomach. He or she will insert a camera and surgical instruments into the incision(s) and place the band around the upper part of the stomach. With the help of the camera, the surgeon will view the procedure on a screen. The band on the stomach connects via tubing to a port that sits below the skin. Your surgeon can tighten or loosen the band by adding saline to the tube, which will happen after you recover from the surgery. When the band is tightened, it creates the smaller stomach pouch.  

What can I expect as a patient?

Following the surgery, your doctor will provide detailed instructions on what to eat and how much to eat as you recover. Patients often begin with a liquid diet and transition consuming to small amounts of solid foods. After the procedure, if you overeat, you will know it. You may feel nauseous and even vomit. Most LAGB patients will lose weight gradually for months and even years after the procedure. The amount of weight you will lose depends on how you alter your lifestyle following the procedure. In addition to losing weight, you may decrease your risk for obesity-related diseases. You should talk to your doctor about a longer-term exercise, diet and weight-loss support plan following the surgery.

What are the benefits?

Adjustable laparoscopic band surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that requires no cutting or stapling of the stomach. Patients can frequently go home the same day or after a single night in the hospital, and recovery is significantly quicker than other types of surgery. The band is adjustable, so you can return to your doctor as needed to have the stomach restriction increased or decreased. Because of all of these considerations, the adjustable gastric band procedure carries the lowest risk of all bariatric surgeries.

What are the risks?

Even though LAGB surgery carries the lowest risk of bariatric surgeries, it is still a surgery. All surgeries pose risks and can lead to serious side effects. It’s important to consider those risks and side effects and, with your doctor’s input, determine if the outcome outweighs those risks. Additionally, you should keep in mind that not all bariatric surgeries are effective for all people, and not all people who undergo bariatric surgery lose weight. To be successful, it’s imperative that those who undergo this surgery commit to long-term healthy lifestyle choices that foster weight loss.

Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding isn’t right for everyone. But for many people, it can lead to long-term weight loss, improved health and a more fulfilling life. Talk to your doctor to learn more.