Lap Band Failures Drive Many to Safer Weight Loss Surgeries


March 29, 2022 — Jessica Furby struggled with weight most of her life, continuously dieting and exercising to shed kilos. However nothing appeared to assist. By her 22nd birthday, she tipped the scales at greater than 300 kilos.

So, in 2011, whereas a school scholar in Pittsburgh, she determined to have a weight reduction process generally known as lap band surgical procedure. Docs positioned an artificial belt round her abdomen to restrict what she might eat. It appeared like a very good possibility on the time and, after her surgical procedure, she misplaced about 60 kilos.

However the advantages didn’t final. Within the months that adopted, she had ache and different problems. Worst of all, she ultimately regained all the burden she’d misplaced — after which some. By 2016, she weighed 350 kilos and was changing into prediabetic.

That’s when she determined to have the band eliminated and, on her physician’s advice, had one other process — gastric sleeve surgery — the place surgeons take away about 80% of the abdomen.

Research have discovered the sleeve surgical procedures carry fewer problems and a a lot greater success charge than lap band procedures, which Furby’s expertise has confirmed.

Immediately, at age 32, she’s right down to 288 kilos and says she is on her solution to hitting her final objective of 200 kilos.

“The surgical procedure has been a godsend,” she says. “I’ve not had any problems with it in any respect. The sleeve was life-changing for me.”

Furby’s expertise has grow to be extra frequent because the dangers, problems, and failures of lap band surgical procedures have been rising over the previous decade.

Extra band sufferers are selecting to have conversion surgical procedure to gastric sleeve and the same bariatric process generally known as gastric bypass. On the similar time, fewer medical doctors are doing lap band procedures, due to issues like Furby’s.

In accordance with the most recent figures from the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgical procedure, lap band procedures account for fewer than 1% of the 256,000 bariatric operations executed within the U.S. every year, whereas gastric sleeves add as much as almost 60%. That makes sleeve surgical procedures probably the most generally carried out bariatric operation at this time.

By comparability, 35% of bariatric surgical procedures had been lap band procedures in 2011, whereas sleeve operations accounted for below 18%.

Furby’s surgeon, Anita P. Courcoulas, MD, says the development is being pushed by lots of the issues Furby skilled firsthand.

Courcoulas, who’s chief of minimally invasive bariatric and common surgical procedure on the College of Pittsburgh Medical Middle, says there are two major causes for the decline in lap band procedures.

“It has been proven to be much less efficient for weight reduction [than] different bariatric surgical procedures, and band intolerance usually leads to band removing,” she says.

Gastric sleeve, adopted by gastric bypass, are the 2 mostly carried out operations in the USA and worldwide, she says.

Courcoulas says the shift from gastric bypass to gastric sleeve procedures “is probably going pushed by the decline within the band utilization, affected person preferences for a much less invasive operation, such because the sleeve in comparison with bypass, and surgeon preferences about which operation(s) to supply a given affected person.”

Ali Aminian, MD, director of the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute on the Cleveland Clinic, agrees that lap band problems and failures, along with ineffective weight reduction, are behind the development, driving sufferers and medical doctors to decide on safer and simpler procedures.

He says the Cleveland Clinic not does band operations, and he has executed plenty of conversions.

“Round 50-60% of [lap band] sufferers require reoperation to maintain the problems,” he says. “So, when you could have a surgical procedure the place greater than half of the time the sufferers require reoperation, we can not declare that’s a secure operation.”

Evolution in Bariatric Surgical procedure

The primary bariatric surgical procedures for weight reduction date again to the Fifties and Sixties, when surgeons on the College of Minnesota first did experimental bypass operations. Adjustable gastric banding first appeared within the late Seventies and early Nineteen Eighties.

However these procedures didn’t acquire widespread mainstream use till gastric band procedures gained full FDA approval in 2001. Medical trials have discovered individuals who have bariatric surgical procedure have a considerably decrease threat of coronary heart illness and different obesity-related well being issues.

Within the decade that adopted the FDA’s approval of lap band surgical procedure, it turned a preferred weight reduction process, accounting for greater than a 3rd of all bariatric surgical procedures by 2011.

“Fifteen to twenty years in the past, lap band was probably the most generally carried out process for bariatric surgery worldwide and in the USA,” Aminian says. “It was very straightforward to do, it was fast — it takes 20 minutes to do the process — restoration was quick, and initially sufferers had nice outcomes. They might drop some weight and had been wholesome.”

However over the previous decade, surgeons discovered that sufferers usually regained the burden they’d misplaced, and complication and failure charges rose.

“As a result of the lap band is a international physique that we place contained in the physique, many sufferers had problems associated to that international physique,” Aminian says.

The band can generally transfer or be displaced, inflicting blockage of the abdomen, consultants be aware. Different frequent problems embody nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, and esophageal points (resembling a tough time swallowing). Some sufferers really feel ache, fixed food cravings, or that they’ll’t eat or drink something. And painful infections and different issues can develop with the tubing or the port positioned below the pores and skin that’s linked to the band, which medical doctors use to make changes after surgical procedure.

“Scar tissue may also kind across the lap band that may trigger a blockage within the abdomen,” Aminian says. “Then if the band is just too tight, it could possibly erode into the abdomen tissue and even go contained in the abdomen and trigger perforation or bleeding.”

In contrast, gastric sleeve and bypass procedures have been discovered to be safer, end in longer-lasting weight reduction, carry fewer problems, and require fewer affected person reoperations. Aminian estimates that solely 2% to three% of sufferers want second operations.

One other Key Issue: Metabolic ‘Reset’

Sleeve and bypass procedures additionally provide one other essential benefit over band operations: They assist reset the physique’s metabolism higher, altering appetite- and weight-related hormones within the physique.

These hormones can have an effect on meals cravings, assist folks really feel full after consuming, or enhance weight acquire in methods that may trump willpower, consultants say.

“The lap band doesn’t change the hormones within the physique, it’s only a restrictive band across the esophagus or the higher a part of the abdomen, so it limits the affected person’s means to eat an excessive amount of,” Aminian says. “That’s why it doesn’t have the metabolic results.”

However different procedures, just like the gastric sleeve, change the hormones within the physique. Eradicating the supply of these hormones means the affected person gained’t have the identical appetitie, Aminian says.

“And that’s why it’s very efficient. The issue with the lap band is the affected person at all times has the sensation and want to eat — they’re at all times hungry. That’s why in the long term, they fail,” he says.

“They alter the setpoints,” Aminian says. “When the hormones in your physique change, the [metabolic] setpoint within the mind additionally modifications.”

He likens the metabolic setpoint to a thermostat in your house that regulates temperature inside.

“When a affected person goes on a food plan or goes on the lap band, the thermostat doesn’t change,” he says. “They might lose some weight, however they’re going to regain it as a result of the thermostat is similar. However when the hormones in your physique change, then the thermostat will change and also you’re not going to regain the burden that you’ve misplaced.”

Sachin Kukreja, MD, a surgeon and CEO at DFW Bariatrics and Common Surgical procedure in Dallas, says he believes these metabolic modifications are the most important issues behind profitable surgical procedures.

“Individuals synonymize bariatric surgical procedure with weight reduction surgical procedure, however actually the metrics we ought to be utilizing are extra associated to metabolic measures,” says Kukreja, who hasn’t executed a band surgical procedure since 2013. “And so, the metabolic parameters that change with bariatric surgical procedure are rather more vital within the setting with sleeve and gastric sleeve, and far much less vital with lap band.”

David Arterburn, MD, agrees that resetting metabolism is essential however says the difficulty is “controversial and difficult” amongst bariatric surgeons.

“The metabolic setpoint is the concept we’ve got a biologically managed set physique weight that we’ll at all times return to. Clearly, this isn’t the case for everybody, as some folks lose and keep long-term weight reduction,” says Arterburn, a common internist and bariatric surgical procedure researcher at Kaiser Permanente Washington Well being Analysis Institute.

Put up-Op Life-style Adjustments Crucial to Success

Bariatric surgeons and sufferers alike additionally say that no surgical process is a magic-bullet answer for weight reduction. Sufferers who’ve any kind of bariatric surgical procedure should embrace post-op way of life modifications — consuming more healthy diets, getting extra train, reducing out unhealthy habits — to drop some weight and keep weight reduction.

Jan Lasecki, 54, a well being care specialist in Akron, OH, who had band-to-sleeve conversion surgical procedure in 2020, says the post-op follow-up was no less than as essential because the surgical procedure itself in serving to her shed kilos.

She says at first, she selected lap band surgical procedure a number of years in the past as a result of it was “much less invasive” than gastric sleeve or bypass. However whereas she misplaced about 50 kilos, she regained it after about 6 years and had different problems.

So, 2 years in the past, Lasecki had two surgical procedures 6 months aside — one to take away her band, and a second to create a gastric sleeve. And the outcomes, she says, have been very profitable, partially due to the modifications she made after surgical procedure, with the assistance of her physician’s employees.

“I’ve now misplaced about 90 kilos and have stored if off since surgical procedure,” she says. “I might inform anybody contemplating any bariatric surgical procedure, it was positively value it [and] having the sleeve resulted in larger weight reduction.”

The follow-up was key to the success, she says.

The employees “have the instruments and assist that can assist you if you are inclined to fall again on previous behaviors and begin to regain weight,” Lasecki says. “They can assist you earlier than it will get uncontrolled. I had no points following both process from a surgical procedure perspective.”

Sally and Robert Cordova — who had gastric bypass and sleeve surgical procedures, respectively, 3 years in the past — agree that the post-op way of life modifications are essential to success.

“Once we agreed to have this surgical procedure, we agreed that this shall be a life-style change for the remainder of our lives,” says Sally, 48, an accounting specialist who’s misplaced 150 kilos — half her physique weight — since her surgical procedure. “You possibly can’t simply get to your excellent weight after which cease.”

Robert, 47, a federal border management agent whose workmates nicknamed him “Large Rob” when he tipped the scales at 336 kilos, says it’s a mistake to consider the surgical procedure as a “magic-bullet” answer to weight problems. There’s extra to it than that, he says.

“One of many issues I like concerning the course of I’ve taken is, in my view, they set you up for fulfillment,” he says. “As a result of it’s not simply having the surgical procedure and also you’re executed; it’s all of the lessons educating you about all the approach to life modifications it’s a must to do, and beginning them earlier than the surgical procedure. The one people who I do know personally who haven’t been profitable with the surgical procedure are those that haven’t made the approach to life modifications.”

Immediately, at 230 kilos, Robert says he’s by no means felt higher.

“I really feel nice,” he says. “I’ve grow to be extra energetic, clearly doing every thing is so much simpler. It obtained to the purpose the place it was a process to simply tying up my sneakers!”

Ought to Band Sufferers Convert to Sleeve or Bypass?

Bariatric surgeons interviewed for this text had been reluctant to say that each one individuals who had lap band procedures ought to convert to gastric sleeve or bypass. However they made it clear that sleeve and bypass procedures are safer and simpler than lap band surgical procedure, which is why it’s not often executed at this time.

“If a affected person experiences poor weight reduction or problems from a band, they’ll contemplate conversion/revision to a sleeve or bypass,” says Courcoulas, echoing the views of different medical doctors.

“The selection of revision process ought to be based mostly on affected person components, together with diabetes and complete weight. Changing a band to a sleeve is a technically simpler operation, and a few research present that there are fewer problems, in comparison with conversion to a bypass. These issues have to be balanced with information that present that each weight reduction and metabolic enhancements resembling diabetes are larger after bypass, in comparison with sleeve.”

Docs and consultants additionally say it’s essential for sufferers who’re contemplating a lap band conversion to gastric sleeve or bypass to know the variations amongst these three major procedures, all endorsed by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgical procedure.

Right here’s a primer, together with the professionals and cons of every process:

Lap Band

In lap band surgical procedure, an adjustable gastric band made from silicone is positioned across the prime a part of the abdomen, making a small pouch above it, to restrict the quantity of meals an individual can eat. The dimensions of the opening between the pouch and the abdomen will be adjusted with fluid injections by way of a port positioned beneath the pores and skin.

Meals goes by way of the abdomen however is proscribed by the smaller opening of the band.


  • Lowest charge of problems proper after surgical procedure
  • No division of the abdomen or intestines
  • Sufferers go residence on the day of surgical procedure, and restoration is fast.
  • The band will be eliminated, if essential.


  • The band could have to be adjusted, on occasion, and sufferers should make month-to-month workplace visits throughout the first yr.
  • There’s much less weight reduction than with different surgical procedures.
  • It comes with the danger of band motion (slippage) or injury to the abdomen over time (erosion).
  • The surgical procedure signifies that a international implant has to stay within the physique.
  • It has a excessive charge of reoperation.
  • The surgical procedure can convey swallowing issues, enlargement of the esophagus, and different problems.

Gastric Sleeve

For laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy — usually known as gastric sleeve — surgeons take away about 80% of the abdomen, so the remaining abdomen is the scale and form of a banana.

The brand new, smaller abdomen holds much less meals and liquid, decreasing how a lot meals (and what number of energy) the affected person can get. By eradicating the portion of the abdomen that produces starvation and urge for food hormones, the surgical procedure additionally helps reset the physique’s metabolism — reducing hunger, growing emotions of fullness, and permitting the physique to achieve and keep a wholesome weight in addition to management blood sugar.


  • It’s technically easy and has a brief surgical procedure time.
  • It may be executed in sure sufferers with high-risk medical circumstances.
  • It could be step one for sufferers with extreme weight problems or as a bridge to gastric bypass.
  • The surgical procedure brings efficient weight reduction and enchancment of obesity-related circumstances (usually 50%-60%, Mayo Clinic estimates), with a low complication charge (2%-3%).


  • Nonreversible process
  • Could worsen or trigger new reflux and heartburn
  • Much less impression on metabolism, in comparison with bypass procedures

Gastric Bypass

Gastric bypass, often known as the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (French for “within the type of a Y”) is one other efficient process used to deal with weight problems and obesity-related illnesses (executed laparoscopically for the reason that Nineteen Nineties).

For the operation, surgeons divide the abdomen right into a smaller prime portion (pouch) concerning the dimension of an egg, then the bigger a part of the abdomen is bypassed and not shops or digests meals.

The small gut can also be divided and linked to the brand new egg-sized abdomen pouch to permit meals to go.

Gastric bypass works by limiting the quantity of meals and energy a affected person can devour. It additionally decreases starvation and will increase fullness, permitting the affected person to achieve and keep a wholesome weight. The impression on hormones and metabolic well being usually leads to enchancment of diabetes and helps sufferers with reflux.


  • Dependable and long-lasting weight reduction
  • Efficient for remission of obesity-associated circumstances
  • Efficient weight reduction (60%-70%, Mayo Clinic estimates)


  • Technically extra complicated when in comparison with gastric sleeve or band
  • Extra vitamin and mineral deficiencies than with gastric sleeve or band
  • Danger for small bowel problems and obstruction, in addition to ulcers, particularly with NSAID or tobacco use
  • Could trigger “dumping syndrome,” a sense of illness after consuming or ingesting, particularly sweets

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