Lap-Band Complications are fairly common after you have had surgery. Keep in mind however that many of these complications are very minor and can be avoided by following a few easy to follow instructions.
The Lap-Band is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that can lead to similar weight loss results as other, more complex, surgeries like gastric bypass and gastric sleeves. Although the rate of Lap-Band complications and death in surgery patients is extremely low, the Lap-Band does have a higher instance of smaller, more annoying problems that patients should be aware of and take into consideration when considering Lap-Band surgery.
The Lap-Band, unlike other weight loss surgeries, is not a one-time procedure that does not require follow up. In fact, the follow up visits to your Lap-Band surgeon, including having the band adjusted multiple times, will be key to a your success with the band. Because of the range of Lap-Band complications that can occur, it is important to tell your surgeon immediately if you experience any symptoms that could indicate any complications large or small.
Often times the larger, more serious Lap-Band complications occur when a patient ignores some of the smaller complications that start off as simply a nuisance.
Surgical Lap-Band Complications:
Like any surgery, the Lap-Band procedure has risks associated with being under anesthesia including blood clots, bleeding, pneumonia, pain, and nausea among others. Your surgeon will give you a complete informed consent package that will outline all of the common and rare complications and risks of undergoing surgery. There is also a risk of bowel perforation during surgery but this can normally be caught when it happens and repaired immediately. If it is not caught, another surgery will be required once the perforation is discovered.
The following complications are ones attributed to the Lap-Band, whether by a malfunction in the device (the band itself) or a problem with the way it is used by the patient.
Lap-Band Erosion – When the band erodes through the stomach. This is a very serious side effect and the band must be removed.
Band Intolerance – The Lap-Band is an implant which is tolerated well by most patients but there is a risk that your body just won’t accept its presence. Symptoms include frequent vomiting and constant discomfort. Removal of the band is then required.
Band or Port Leaks – The Lap-Band is filled with saline, which inflates it and gives the feeling of restriction patients feel. If a patient suddenly or gradually loses the feeling of restriction it can be a sign that the fluid from the band is leaking. The leak can occur in the band itself or the tubing of the port. Surgery is required to replace the malfunctioning part whether it is the band or the port (note: port repair surgery is much less complicated than Lap-Band surgery.)
Band Slip – Sometimes the stomach can move around the band in a way it’s not supposed to. This is known as a slippage of the band. It can be caused by being overly tight, excessive overeating with the band, or frequent vomiting. If all saline is removed from the band and the symptoms don’t resolve, surgery can be required to reposition or remove the band.
Constipation – After surgery your diet will have to change. Lack of fiber and generally eating less can cause constipation in Lap-Band patients. Drinking plenty of water and taking a fiber supplement can help avoid this.
Trouble Swallowing – After Lap-Band surgery, some patients may experience difficulty getting food down but it is normally due to lack of good chewing practices and can be solved by eating smaller bites and chewing more thoroughly.
Dilation of the Esophagus or Pouch – If the band is too tightly filled or placed incorrectly during surgery, or if a patient overeats after surgery, the esophagus and/or the newly created pouch (stoma) can become dilated (stretched) and this can lead to acid reflux and vomiting as well as inadequate weight loss due to more food being able to be consumed. If caught early, fluid can be removed from the band and the stoma or esophagus will return to normal in time. In serious cases, surgery may be required to remove the band.
Getting “Stuck” – If a patient is not careful to take small bites and chew thoroughly, food particles can become lodged in the opening between the pouch and the rest of the stomach. Normally these episodes pass in time or a patient will regurgitate the food (or often times, pill.) In extreme circumstances, the band may have to be unfilled to allow the food or drug to pass through.
Gallstones – Gallstones can form in the gallbladder, particularly after rapid weight loss. Some surgeons will remove the gallbladder during Lap-Band surgery and many more patients have to undergo gallbladder removal in the years following their Lap-Band.
Acid Reflux, Indigestion, Heartburn (or GERD) – By far one of the most popular Lap-Band Complications – While many people’s GERD is vastly improved following weight loss surgery, the Lap-Band can also cause acid reflux and heartburn in some patients. This is not normal and usually indicates the band is too tight or food is being eaten too close to bed time, at which point it sits in the stoma, or pouch, instead of moving down into the full stomach. Changing what you eat, when you eat it, and developing good Lap-Band eating practices can usually eliminate these side effects.
Food Intolerances – After Lap-Band surgery, some people just cannot eat some foods. Many people find once they are correctly adjusted that breads and pastas are not edible anymore. Some people have trouble with fibrous foods like celery and other stringy vegetables. You will have to try new foods slowly and carefully to determine how they will work for you post Lap-Band.
Port Flip or Relocation – Sometimes the port moves from the position your surgeon placed it in during Lap-Band surgery. If it manages to flip upside down it will not be accessible for fills and a small, outpatient procedure will be needed to get it back into place and right side up. Most port repairs can be done under local anesthesia and are relatively common and routine for your surgeon to perform.
Infection of the Port or Band – Though uncommon, bacteria from the stomach can travel down the tubing and infect the area of the port or the band itself. While this can normally be treated with antibiotics, in some cases removal of the band may be necessary.
Lap-Band Failure – Sometimes the Lap-Band simply does not work for a person and they opt to have the band removed. Sometimes this failure is due to complications or intolerances and other times it is due to the patient not being compliant with the post Lap-Band eating and lifestyle requirements. Insufficient weight loss with the Lap-Band, warranting removal of the band, is normally defined as losing less than 30% of your excess weight. Patients should keep in mind that successful results with the Lap-Band would be losing 30% of excess weight or more – meaning a person who is 100 lbs overweight would only need to lose 30lbs in order to have the surgery considered a success. This is a much lower percentage of excess weight than is expected from other bariatric procedures, however, the Lap-Band has been proven to provide similar long term results as Gastric Bypass over the course of several years post-op.
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