A gastric band is intermediate between the gastric balloon and more extensive bariatric surgery. It involves a general anaesthetic and laparoscopic surgery but recovery is rapid and the band can be adjusted or removed in the future as required.

What is a gastric band?

The laparoscopic adjustable gastric band is an adjustable narrow balloon that is placed around the outside of the stomach at the top. It creates a small pouch with a small volume that restricts the amount of food you can eat without feeling uncomfortably full.

When you eat, food passes normally through your cardiac sphincter, the valve at the top of the stomach. It then fills the pouch so that you feel full very quickly. The food then moves slowly past the constriction caused by the gastric band into the main part of the stomach. Once food reaches the main part of the stomach, it is digested normally.

The gastric band is adjusted 6 weeks after your operation to make sure it is constricting your stomach adequately. Because the gastric band is adjustable, you can then have it inflated further if:

  • You find you are not losing weight fast enough.
  • You find you are able to eat easily without restriction from the gastric band.
  • Your weight loss plateaus after a few months.

In many patients, a gastric band is a permanent weight loss treatment. It remains in place for a long period, around 15 years at the moment

Having a gastric band fitted

You will need to go through all of the preparations and assessments for surgery and detailed consultations to make sure you understand the benefits and limitations of a gastric band.

Our consultants and dieticians also work with you to plan your diet after surgery, encouraging you to also follow a healthier lifestyle with regular exercise.

Recovering after gastric band surgery

At The London Clinic, gastric band surgery takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. You will feel some discomfort the next day but pain relief medication will help and you will be encouraged to get up and walk around and to sip water.

Most patients stay in The Clinic for only one night though some can leave on the same day. Once you are home you need to recover for about two weeks before resuming everyday activities or before going back to work.

Once your gastric band is in place you will never be able to return to eating full-sized meals and overeating may cause nausea and vomiting. You need to build up to eating solid food gradually in the first three months:
• First three to four days: clear liquids only. No solid food and no carbonated drinks.
• Up to five weeks: a modified liquid diet consisting of soup, pureed food, protein shakes and liquid yoghurt.
• After six weeks: you will have your band tightened under X-ray control or by your surgeon.
• Five to twelve weeks: You can then eat small quantities of food that has been shredded by food processing.
• After 12 weeks: small meals, well chewed and eaten slowly.

What results can I expect?

Dietary discipline, patient commitment and good follow-up are needed to achieve good weight loss. In someone with the commitment to making sure their diet is nutritionally balanced and healthy, and who is able to build an exercise programme into their lifestyle, weight loss at 3 years can be similar to gastric bypass. The average excess weight loss with gastric band is about 45-55%.

What problems might I experience with a gastric band?

Weight loss surgery to fit a gastric band is usually uneventful but problems can occur later:

  • In 10% of patients, the gastric band slips or causes erosion of the stomach tissue. This may result in it being removed.
  • In a different 5% of people, having a gastric band causes severe gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) [Link to condition page on GERD], and the band has to be deflated or removed.
  • Over time, some patients experience problems with the tubing that links to the port through which the band is inflated.
  • If you need more drastic weight loss after having a gastric band in place for several years, the scar tissue can make the subsequent gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy operation more difficult, and more likely to result in complications.