Lap Band Complications and Risks
The Lap Band is statistically the safest weight loss surgery procedure. You should however be aware that every surgery procedure has risks. Every time you get in a car, you can get into a horrible unforeseen accident. Luckily, such accidents are rare, and we go about our driving without much thought to it. Similarly, the Lap Band has potential significant risks, but many of the significant risks are extremely rare.
For example, with every surgery procedure, including the LapBand, there are potential but rare risks of bleeding, infection, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, brain damage, and death. Also there are more specific risks with abdominal surgery such as the Lap Band procedure including, damage to internal organs such as the stomach, intestines, or spleen. These risks are fairly rare and are less common than with gastric bypass for example. Gastric banding with the Lap Band has always been shown to be statistically safer than the gastric bypass and gastric sleeve.
Unlike the gastric bypass or the gastric sleeve, the gastric band surgery does not require cutting across the stomach or intestines. This is one aspect that makes gastric band surgery statistically safer than any other weight loss surgery.
The surgery is performed laparoscopically. That means four to five small incision are made, just a bit larger than a pencil width, in order to introduce a camera and laparoscopic instruments. The procedure’s safety is evident in the fact that nearly all patients do home the same day of the surgery. Only in rare situations would your surgeon need to make a large incision during your surgery.
Let’s review a few specific complications for gastric band surgery.
Lap Band Slippage
This is when the stomach slips up and through the band. Some surgeons report that this occurs in about 2 – 4% of their cases. If this happens there a few options. In some mild cases, simply removing fluid from the band, which loosens the restriction, may be enough for the stomach to relax and go back into position. In other cases, however a laparoscopic surgery will be required to either revise or replace the band so that the stomach is in proper position. In rare cases, if the slip has been present for a long time before the patient presents to their physician, the band may need to be removed. This is generally rare.
Lap Band Erosion
This occurs where the stomach lining gets irritated to the point that the band erodes into the stomach. No one really knows what the cause of this is. Some surgeons feel it occurs if the stomach is wrapped too tightly around the band. Others think it happens from an ulcer on the inside of the stomach eroding through the whole stomach wall and into the gastric band. Others think it may be a result of an infection. Thankfully the complication of gastric band erosion is not very common and in several studies seems to occur in less than 1% of cases and generally several months to years after surgery. If it occurs, generally the gastric band would need to be removed, and the stomach is allowed some time to heal. In certain cases the band can be replaced after it is removed for erosion after allowing a period of time to pass so that the stomach can heal.
In order to tighten the LapBand the port is accessed with a needle and saline is injected into the port. There are a couple of issues that can occur with the port. One thing that can happen is a port flip. This is where the port flips to one side or the other or to the back so that it is difficult or impossible to access it with a needle. If this occurs, the port’s position needs to be revised. Some doctors do this in their office in a sterile procedure room, where they numb the skin and then cut down to the port and flip it back in position. In other cases it is done in a hospital setting. The other issue that can occur with ports is leakage. If the port develops a leak it will need to eventually be replaced and as noted above, this might be done in either an office setting or a hospital setting.