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Safety of Gastric Banding Weight-Loss Surgery in Question

  • Published: 2010-09-12 (Revised/Updated 2010-09-25) : Author: Winters Enright Salzetta & O'Brien, L.L.C.
  • Synopsis: Increasing doubts about safety of Lap Band surgery and similar weight loss procedures.

Main Document

With a culture obsessed with the waistline, it's not surprising that the business of gastric weight-loss surgery is growing quickly in America.

Led by Allergan, maker of Botox and breast implants, the gastric weight-loss industry has grown to $400 million annually. But its continued rapid expansion is threatened by increasing doubts about the safety of the popular Lap-Band surgery and similar procedures, according to a report by Reuters.

What Is Gastric Banding Weight-Loss Surgery

The 30-minute to hour-long procedure known as Lap-Band surgery inserts an inflatable silicone band around the top portion of the stomach, creating a small pouch. The pouch limits the amount of food their stomach can hold, enabling them to feel full while eating less. The surgery can be done on an outpatient basis, though it may require a night's stay in a hospital for some patients.

The surgery is not as invasive and hazardous as gastric bypass surgery, which involves large incisions and a bypassing of a part of the intestine.

The Risks

Food and Drug Administration regulators are now looking into the possibility of allowing companies to market the Lap-Band and similar surgeries to teens. In one study of the laparoscopic surgery, more than one in five teenagers had "symmetric pouch dilation," in which the pouch size increases at the top of the stomach, allowing patients to eat more (and thereby defeat the purpose of the procedure).

While fewer than eight percent of gastric banding weight-loss patients experience complications in the first month following surgery, more than 40 percent have problems in the long-term.

Those problems include disintegration and slippage of the silicone band (both problems may require additional surgery to remedy). Long-term complications also include esophagus dilation, which can make it difficult for patients to swallow, and infections around the band's port, where doctors add or subtract saline to tighten or loosen the band.

Leaks of the saline in the bands are also not uncommon, according to reports.

A Swiss study of 167 adults who underwent the gastric band surgery showed that almost a third of the devices had failed 10 years after insertion. An Austrian study found that just fewer than 54 percent of gastric band patients had the original band after nine years.

When Risks Become Reality

If you or a member of your family has suffered harm because of a gastric banding weight-loss surgery, contact an Illinois medical malpractice attorney who can investigate the facts of the case. A medical malpractice lawyer explains your legal options and helps victims of medical malpractice pursue compensation for medical bills, loss of income and pain and suffering due to doctor or hospital negligence.

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