Fatal diseases and health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, and liver disease claim the lives of millions every day. Ironically, all of them can result from obesity, which ranks among the top killers of individuals in the U.S. For the countless Americans who are suffering from severe obesity, diet and exercise are simply not enough to help them achieve sufficient weight loss.
Fortunately, there are other methods that can provide assistance, including different types of bariatric surgery procedures. In today’s world of weight loss surgery, lap band surgery has become one of the most popular choices for weight reduction. However, it is important to note that lap band surgery is not for people who are slightly overweight or struggling to lose a few pounds; rather the surgical procedure is specifically meant for those who are excessively overweight or obese. These individuals usually need to lose a significant amount of weight for health reasons.
Patients That Qualify for Lap Band Surgery
As previously mentioned, lap band surgery is not for everyone. In order to qualify for this type of weight loss surgery, individuals need to satisfy the following criteria:
- Patients should be between the ages of 18 and 55 (Although it is common for doctors to work with patients who are younger or older, depending on the specific case)
- Patients must have a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 40, which is typically equivalent to being around 100 pounds over a person’s estimated ideal weight
- Patients must have failed at other attempts at weight loss
- Have a history of obesity (Spanning 5 years or more)
In addition to some of the specifications mentioned above, it is also important for patients to understand the entire scope of the lap band surgical procedure. One of the major aspects which potential candidates for this type of bariatric surgery should consider is complying with lifelong dietary restrictions for the purpose of long term success. They should also be willing to accept the operative risks involved with the procedure.
Lap Band vs. Gastric Bypass Surgery
Unlike gastric bypass surgery, which revolves around stomach stapling to achieve weight loss, the lap band procedure is minimally invasive and requires no incisions in the abdominal area. Similar to how the name sounds, lap band surgery involves the placement of a band around the patient’s stomach. The purpose of the band is to restrict the size of the stomach, which in turn causes individuals to feel fuller faster. Once in place, the band can be tightened or loosened by the patient’s doctor as required. There are also some other differences between these two types of weight loss surgery procedures. For example, the recovery period for lap band surgery patients is much quicker. Additionally, the process can also be reversed by surgically removing the band, which is not possible with gastric bypass surgery.
Risks and Complications
When it comes to surgical procedures, there are always certain risks and complications to be expected, and lap band surgery is no exception. Although the possibility for death is significantly low, the threat still exists and should be taken under consideration. The following are some risks which patients should be aware of prior to undergoing lap band surgery:
- Band slippage
- Difficulty swallowing
- Regaining of weight
- Stomach irritation
Cost of Surgery
There are several factors which affect the cost for lap band surgery and one of them is location. The cost can vary significantly depending on whether patients choose to have the procedure done in the United States or whether they plan to travel to another country. While some patients are eligible to receive health insurance coverage for this type of weight loss surgery, not everyone is able to qualify, and must therefore pay out of pocket.
In addition to the surgery itself, there are also other associated costs to take into account, including surgeon’s fees, lab tests, and hospital expenses. Further expenditures that can arise post-surgery include follow up tests, doctor visits and diet and nutritional counseling. The average cost for lap band surgery in the U.S. is around $13,000 or more (excluding pre and post surgery expenses). Although the cost is lower in other countries, such as Mexico (approximately $8,000- $10,000), the inclusion of travel expenses can often add up to the same amount.
[page updated December 2008]