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Lap band surgery: Cost, side effects and success rate

Before you sign up for it, we want to make sure you have all the facts.

Lap Band Surgery: Cost, Side Effects and Success Rate | Juniper

What if there was a way to shrink your stomach and eat less? Well...there is. But it's not exactly the quick fix you might be expecting (or wishing for).

When you've tried every strategy in the book to drop that excess weight, your doctor might recommend bariatric surgery. While these procedures are effective, they are also lifelong commitments.

Before you sign up for gastric banding, we want to make sure you have all the facts — including how it works, how much it can cost, and the non-surgical alternatives you can try.

What is lap band surgery?

Lap band surgery is a type of bariatric surgery that is designed to help you lose weight.

Its full name is laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery. But, it commonly goes by the name of 'gastric banding' or 'lap band surgery' [1].

The name 'lap band surgery' comes from the small silicone band that is placed around your stomach. This separates your stomach into 2 pieces — a small upper stomach pouch and a large lower part of the stomach [1].

By creating a smaller stomach pouch, the surgery helps you feel full and satisfied after only eating small amounts.

What happens during lap band surgery?

Lap band surgery is a keyhole surgery, which means there are only small incisions needed to access your stomach.

During the procedure, your surgeon will insert the lap band at the top of your stomach. They will also insert a small tube, often called an access port, which lies beneath the skin of your abdominal wall.

The port is used to adjust the size of your lap band by adding or removing saline solution (i.e. salt water) from the ring [1].

What about after surgery? 

The biggest change after surgery will be to your diet. For the first few weeks, you will be on a liquid diet. Over time, this can include some pureed and soft foods.

After 6 weeks, you can usually return to a normal diet with solid foods. You might also work with a dietitian who can design a healthy eating plan to help you lose weight [1].

Since you have just had an operation, you might also experience some pain. This is most common at the incision site, but may also include shoulder and neck pain [3]. 

If at any time you experience pain or complications that concern you, speak with your doctor.

Who is eligible for gastric banding?

Weight loss surgery is typically used as a last resort; when diet, exercise, and other interventions have not worked [2].

Bariatric surgery is only available on the advice of a doctor and if you meet certain criteria. The biggest factor determining if you’ll be offered lap band surgery is your BMI [2]:

  • A person with a BMI of over 40 is eligible for weight loss surgery
  • A person with a BMI between 35-40 is eligible if they have certain other health risks, like heart disease or diabetes

Your doctor might also ask some background questions about you, such as:

  • Your previous weight loss attempts
  • Your family history
  • Any underlying medical conditions
  • Your mental state

They want to make sure that bariatric surgery is a good option for you and that you are in the right mindset to get the best results [4].

How much does lap band surgery cost?

If your doctor decides you are eligible for gastric band surgery, your next question might be — how much will this cost? 

The exact cost depends on the type of surgery and the surgeon who performs it, but we can help you with a few estimates.

Lap band surgery in the UK is estimated to cost £4,000-£8,000 [9].

This surgery may be available as part of your medical insurance plan but there are no guarantees. It depends on who you have insurance with, what level of insurance coverage you have, and if there are any waiting periods. Your best option is to contact your insurer directly. 

What results can I expect?

Okay, so you’ve been told that lap band surgery is an option for you. You’ve also done your research and know that you can afford the procedure. Next, you might be wondering what the outcomes will be.

Again, we can’t say for any one individual — but we can tell you what studies have shown us about general populations.

How much weight can I lose?

A number of studies have shown that weight loss from surgery reaches its peak about 2 years after the procedure. Your weight then tends to remain fairly stable for the next few decades [6].

Most people lose weight at a slow, steady rate after lap band surgery. A large Swedish study found that lap band surgery offered a maximum weight loss of 17-20% [4].

There were other positive effects as well; like lowering risks of heart disease and cancer, and improved mental health. Many patients with type 2 diabetes also had improvements to their condition, with a small number even entering remission [4].

What other changes will I have to make?

While these results look pretty good on paper, it’s important that you understand that lap band surgery is only half the answer.

Lap band procedures help you control your portion sizes, but you still need to make changes to your diet and exercise regime [2][8].

For exercise, you should follow the national guidelines which recommend 150-300 minutes of moderate activity each week or 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity [5].

For your diet, Mediterranean style is recommended. That means [5]:

How long does a lap band last?

Lap bands are designed to last forever.

A lot of people think that because lap band surgery is reversible, you can simply keep it in until you reach your ideal weight [4][8].

But that’s not really how they work. Many people find that once they remove the stomach band, which makes them feel full on less food, they experience weight regain [8].

Does the lap band need to be adjusted?

It is common to have your lap band adjusted right after surgery. During this time, you and your doctor will test out a few sizes to find the one that is most comfortable and effective for you [1].

After this, it’s unlikely that you will need your band adjusted often. There are a few scenarios that might call for an adjustment though.

You’re not losing weight

When your band is at the right size, you should feel satisfied after eating only small portions. If the band is too loose, you might continue to eat too much and not be able to lose enough weight [8].

In this case, your doctor might recommend tightening the band slightly.

You have gastric reflux

Sometimes, your band might become too tight. Symptoms of this include:

  • Vomiting
  • Acid reflux
  • Chronic cough 

It can be fixed with an adjustment where your doctor removes some fluid from your band [4].

Are there any side effects?

Overall, lap band surgery is considered safe. It does change the way your stomach functions though, which can come with side effects. Here are 3 to consider with the help of your doctor.

Having trouble eating

A lot of people find the transition to new eating habits after gastric band surgery difficult. You need time to adjust to your smaller stomach and should focus on eating much slower. 

Some of the symptoms that you and your doctor should monitor for include [1]: 

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Inflammation of your stomach
  • Gallstones

A number of these issues can actually be fixed by changing your eating patterns. For example, chewing your food more and eating slower to give it time to reach the stomach [5]. 

Leaving a 20- or 30-minute window between eating and drinking often helps too. This allows your body to process food and liquids separately, preventing your stomach from becoming full too quickly [2][5].

Vitamin deficiencies

Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies are surprisingly common after weight loss surgery. They are usually because of your decreased food intake, but might also be due to lower stomach acids that limit absorption [5].

Common deficiencies after lap band surgery include iron, B12, and folate [4].

Taking supplements is usually recommended, along with monitoring your vitamin levels often with your doctor. 

Band slippage

Band slippage is very rare, but not impossible. It affects around 2-3% of patients [7].

This happens when part of the stomach ‘slips’ up through the band. With too much stomach in the upper portion, you have a very narrow food passage or it might even become blocked.

Band slippage can occur at any time — even years after surgery. But, as we mentioned, it is quite rare. Symptoms to look out for include [7]:

  • Severe heartburn or reflux
  • Pain when eating solid foods
  • Vomiting
  • Night cough
  • Chest pain or pressure

If you are worried that your band might have slipped, it is best to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. 

Non-surgical weight loss alternatives 

Surgery might sound like a quick fix, but we hope you understand that it’s a lifelong commitment — just like any other weight loss journey.

Whether you've been recommended surgery and want to weigh up your options or you’re not eligible and want other ideas — here are 3 non-surgical weight loss alternatives to try.

Diet and exercise

The original method is still one of the best. Even after weight loss surgery, your doctor will recommend diet changes and exercise to improve your weight loss [5].

If you’re struggling with lifestyle changes, remember that help is available. You can talk to your doctor, visit a dietitian, engage a personal trainer or do all of the above.

You can also find helpful resources on the Juniper blog. We have plenty of articles focused on nutrition and exercise to support you on your weight loss journey.

Weight loss programmes

The right weight loss programme helps you create habits that are both healthy and sustainable. This way you don't just reach a healthy weight but are equipped with all the tools you need to maintain it in the long run.

Providing comprehensive weight loss support, Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme is a great example of this.

If eligible, you get access to breakthrough medication — at Juniper, we prescribe a GLP-1 medication called Wegovy, which contains the active ingredient semaglutide. But it doesn't end there. You also get ongoing support from a wide team of clinicians, health coaches and more to help you build sustainable weight loss habits for long-term success and even a community of like-minded women who are on the same journey as you.

Weight loss shakes

Meal replacement shakes have been on the scene for a while, but not all of them were created equal. Our Nourish Shakes are packed full of important nutrients to help you keep calories low, but nutrition high: 24 grams of protein, 24 vitamins and minerals, fibre, and more.

Having 2 shakes per day is known as a very low-energy diet (VLED) which can be used in the short-term for rapid weight loss. It’s even similar to the VLED that patients go on for up to 4 weeks after gastric band surgery [5].

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