Although many people in the United States struggle with obesity, many find success in losing weight and optimizing their health through surgical treatment options. Two of the most popular options offered to patients are the gastric band (also called the lap band) and gastric sleeve.
These two procedures are very different, so it is important to understand the particulars and the potential risks and benefits of both. Both options have proven effectiveness, so it often comes down to which procedure makes you feel more comfortable.
An Overview of the Gastric Band Surgery
Gastric bands are one of the least invasive options when it comes to weight-loss surgeries. The procedure involves the placement of a silicone ring and balloon around the upper part of the stomach. This band can be adjusted to put varying amounts of pressure on the stomach. This pressure sends signals of satiety to the brain so that you will feel full after eating a smaller amount of food.
The gastric band can be adjusted as you lose weight or if your nutritional needs change. Furthermore, the lap band can be removed at any time, which means that this option is completely reversible.
After placement of a gastric band, patients tend to lose between 40 percent and 60 percent of excess body weight within two years. However, the results largely depend on the motivation of the patient and their compliance with the diet. Patients who revert to old habits and eat unhealthy meals may not see much weight loss. In general, patients will lose about 2 to 3 pounds each week if they follow their surgeon’s guidelines after placement of the lap band. Over time, this rate of loss will slow to about 1 pound each week.
Patients are eligible for a gastric band if they have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 or greater than 30 with a significant comorbidity, such as diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension.
The procedure comes with risks, such as malposition or erosion, and may require a revision. Some potential side effects are vomiting, nausea, and indigestion, especially when eating too quickly or consuming large volumes of food.
What to Know about the Gastric Sleeve
Another option that many patients choose is the gastric sleeve. This procedure is typically done laparoscopically like the lap band, but it involves permanent changes to the digestive tract.
With a gastric sleeve procedure, about 80 percent of the stomach is removed so that the remaining section is a tube about the size of a banana. This greatly limits the amount of food a person can consume in a single sitting. Unlike with bypass surgeries, the actual digestive tract itself is not altered. However, patients may experience hormonal changes that can result in additional weight loss with the gastric sleeve.
However, as with the lap band, patients need to become committed to eating healthier and making other lifestyle changes, such as exercising more frequently. Since this surgery involves such a significant alteration of the stomach, many patients experience side effects such as hair thinning, fatigue, and changes in mood for about six months following the initial procedure.
Patients qualify for the gastric sleeve procedure if they have a BMI of 40 or 30 with comorbidities, which is very similar to the guidelines for the lap band.
Choosing between Gastric Band and Gastric Sleeve
The decision of whether to get a gastric band or gastric sleeve is a highly personal one that should involve a great deal of discussion with your surgeon. However, having a good understanding of the pros and cons of each procedure can help.
The primary benefit of the gastric band procedure is that it is reversible and does not involve any removal of the digestive tract. Because the gastric band is adjustable, it means that patients do not have to worry about pregnancy or other conditions that would dramatically change their nutritional needs.
The major benefit of gastric sleeve is that it induces fast and significant weight loss, and the surgery is less invasive than the gastric bypass. Still, gastric sleeve surgery is permanent and cannot be reversed, so changes in nutritional needs must be handled with caution. Also, patients with a gastric sleeve must take vitamin supplements for the rest of their life to counteract any potential deficiencies from reduced food intake and altered stomach capacity. Some patients do not like the permanence of these changes.