Treating Long-Term Issues Following Lap Band Surgery

In this article, Dr Kuzinkovas explores issues and complications that can arise following Lap Band (Gastric Band) surgery. 

What is Lap Band surgery?

Lap Band surgery is a bariatric procedure prescribed for weight loss. When compared to the other weight loss procedures, Lap Band surgery is considered to be the least invasive. The procedure is performed laparoscopically (by keyhole) and is completely reversible. Lap Band surgery is known as a restrictive treatment for weight loss. 

Lap Band surgery works by placing a silicone band around the upper portion of the stomach. The band is connected to an injection port that is placed on the abdomen. The tension of the band is adjusted by your bariatric surgeon via the injection port. The band can be loosened and tightened as required and is used to adjust how much food the patient can consume. 

What are Lap Band surgery complications? 

Although an effective treatment for treating obesity, Lap Band surgery is known to have some complications, these include: 

  • Gastric pouch enlargement (dilatation) 
  • Lap Band movement (slip)
  • Port site infections
  • Lap Band erosion

Gastric Pouch Enlargement 

Pouch enlargement or dilatation describes a condition where the gastric pouch (a portion of the stomach above the Lap Band) is enlarged. The size of the gastric pouch changes from pressure in the gastric pouch and is caused by either overinflation of the Lap Band or overeating. Symptoms include increased levels of hunger, heartburn, vomiting and upper abdominal pain. 

Gastric pouch enlargement is treated by loosening the gastric pouch and working with the patient to adjust the portion size of their meals. 

Lap Band Movement (slip)

Lap Band migration refers to a condition in which the Lap Band position changes. The Lap Band can move either up or down the stomach. This causes a change in the size of the gastric pouch. Lap Band migration is most often caused by insufficient suturing to keep the Gastric Band in place. It can also be caused by transitioning to a solid food diet too quickly following surgery. A lack of portion control or vomiting is also known to contribute. Symptoms include vomiting, difficulty swallowing and rejection of food. 

Correcting Lap Band slip is performed surgically and, depending on the patient’s symptoms, may be repositioned or completely removed.  

Port Site Infections

Infections of the Lap Band port site may occur either closely following surgery or at a later stage. Early infections are treated using the same antibiotics used to reduce the likelihood of surgical infections before surgery. 

Late port site infections are most often caused by band erosion and can be resistant to treatment by antibiotics. Untreated late port site infections can progress into life-threatening abdominal sepsis and should be treated immediately. Late port site infections often involve the complete removal of the Lap Band. 

Lap Band Erosion

Band erosion or migration is a long-term complication of Lap Band surgery. It occurs when the Lap Band erodes through the wall of the stomach. The erosion is gradual with patients experiencing loss of restriction when eating, upper abdominal pain, and the presence of blood in stools or vomit. 

Treatment of Gastric Band erosion is the complete surgical removal of the Gastric Band. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, removal may take place by keyhole or open surgery.  

Digestive Complications

Lap Band surgery can also contribute to digestive issues. Food intolerances, trouble swallowing, vomiting and gastric acid reflux are possible. While less significant, these conditions can negatively affect a patient’s quality of life. 

Treatment and management of the above conditions is typically non-surgical and may involve Lap Band adjustment along with modifications to diet. 

Should I have my Lap Band removed?

If you think you have a medical emergency please visit your nearest hospital emergency department or call your local emergency services immediately. 

If you are considering your options following Lap Band surgery, there are many solutions to explore. It is important to remember that complications with Lap Band surgery do not mean your weight loss journey is over. Many patients have removed Lap Bands and undergone other weight loss procedures to achieve their goal weight. 

If you’d like to speak to Dr Kuzinkovas about your options or to get a second opinion, please get in touch with our team today by contacting our clinic on 1300 551 533.

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