Answers to your most commonly asked questions about gastric band surgery.
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How do the weight-loss results with the gastric band compare to those with the gastric bypass?
Many surgeons have reported that gastric bypass patients lose weight faster in the first year. At five years, however, many gastric band patients have achieved weight loss comparable to that of gastric bypass patients. Focus on long-term weight loss and remember that it is important to lose weight gradually while reducing obesity-related risks and improving your health.
How much weight will I lose?
Weight-loss results vary from patient to patient, and the amount of weight you lose depends on several things. The gastric band needs to be adjusted appropriately, and you need to be committed to your new lifestyle and healthy eating habits.
Obesity surgery is not a miracle cure, and the pounds won’t come off by themselves. It is very important to set achievable weight-loss goals from the beginning. A weight loss of two to three pounds a week in the first year after the operation is possible, but one pound a week is more likely. Twelve to eighteen months after the operation, weekly weight loss is usually less. The main goal is to have weight loss that prevents, improves, or resolves health problems connected with severe obesity.
Will I be ill after the operation?
The gastric band limits food intake. If you feel nauseated or sick on a regular basis, it may mean that you are not chewing your food well enough or that you are not following the diet rules properly. However, it could also mean that there is a problem with the placement of the band, so contact your doctor if this problem persists. Vomiting should be avoided as much as possible as it can cause the small stomach pouch to stretch. It can also lead to slippage of part of the stomach through the band, reducing the success of the operation. In some cases, excessive vomiting can necessitate another operation.
How long will it take to recover after surgery?
If gastric band surgery is performed laparoscopically, as it most frequently is, patients typically spend less than 24 hours in the hospital. It takes most patients about a week before they can return to work. In the case of open surgery or if there are complications, recovery may take longer.
Does the gastric band require frequent visits to my doctor after surgery?
Checkups with your doctor are a normal and very important part of the gastric band follow-up. Many surgeons see their patients weekly or biweekly during the first month and every four to twelve weeks for the first year. Adjustments are performed during some of these visits. It is typical for follow-up visits to be scheduled every three to six months during the second and third year, depending on the individual case.
Can the band be removed?
The gastric band is not meant to be removed, but it can be if needed. The stomach generally returns to its original shape once the band is removed. After the removal, though, you may soon go back up to your original weight.
Do I have to be careful with the access port underneath my skin?
After a successful operation, you will not have any activity restrictions based on the access port. It is placed under the skin in the abdominal wall, and once the incisions have healed, the access port should not cause discomfort or limit any exercise. The only sensation you may experience from the port occurs when you go in for adjustments. If you feel persistent discomfort in the port area, talk to your doctor.
How is the band adjusted?
Adjustments are performed without surgery using a thin needle to inject or withdraw saline from the band through the access port. They can be done in an office setting or can be carried out in the X-ray department under fluoroscopy. Most adjustments take a few minutes and patients say they are typically nearly painless.
Is it true that the gastric band seems tighter in the morning?
This is a fairly common feeling, especially for patients with bands that are tight to begin with to facilitate maximum weight loss, or for patients who have just had an adjustment. During the day, the water content in the body changes, causing the band to feel tighter occasionally. Some women have also noticed that the gastric band feels tighter during menstruation.
Will I need plastic surgery for the excess skin when I have lost a lot of weight?
That is not always the case. As a rule, plastic surgery should not be considered for at least a year or two after the operation since sometimes the skin will mold itself around the new body tissue. Give the skin the time it needs to adjust before you decide to have more surgery.
What will happen if I become ill?
One of the major advantages of the gastric band is that it can be adjusted. If your illness requires you to eat more, the band can be loosened by removing saline. When you have recovered from your illness and want to lose weight again, the band can be tightened by increasing the amount of saline.
Does the gastric band limit any physical activity?
The gastric band does not impede physical activity including aerobics, stretching and strenuous exercise.
What about pregnancy?
Becoming pregnant can be easier as you lose weight. Your menstrual cycle may become more regular. If you need to eat more while you are pregnant, the band can be loosened. After pregnancy, the band may be made tighter again and you can resume losing weight.
Will I feel hungry or deprived with the gastric band?
The gastric band makes you eat less and feel full in two ways – first by reducing the capacity of your stomach and second by increasing the time it takes food to get through the digestive system. After eating a small meal – the amount of which varies from person to person – you should feel full. If you follow the nutrition guidelines when you choose your food and then chew it well, you should not feel hungry or deprived. Remember that the gastric band is a tool to help you change your eating habits.
Can I eat anything in moderation?
You may eat most foods that don’t cause you discomfort. However, because you can only eat a little at any given time, it is important to include foods rich in important vitamins and nutrients, such as those recommended by your surgeon and dietitian. If you eat foods that contain lots of sugar and fat or drink liquids full of empty calories, such as milkshakes, the effect of the gastric band may be greatly reduced or even canceled.
What if I go out to eat?
Order only a small amount of food, such as an appetizer. Eat slowly. Finish at the same time as your table companions. You might want to let your host or hostess know in advance that you cannot eat very much.
What about alcohol?
Alcohol has a high number of calories and breaks down vitamins so it is not recommended as a healthy food choice.
What about taking medication?
You should be able to take prescribed medication, though you may need to break big tablets (larger than an aspirin or Tylenol capsule) in half or dissolve them in water so they do not get stuck in the stomach and make you sick. Always ask the doctor who prescribes the drugs.
Will I need to take vitamin supplements?
You may need to take vitamin supplements. It’s possible you won’t get enough vitamins from three small meals a day. Your surgeon may advise you to take a multivitamin supplement.