All major surgical operations carry risks and, although laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery carries fewer risks than most other forms of weight loss surgery, there are nonetheless risks which have to considered before deciding to undergo surgery.
Here we examine some of the risks but it must be emphasized that each patient will also experience risks which are specific to their own case which will be explained to you by your surgeon.
The risks inherent in gastric band surgery can be broadly divided into two categories – the risks from surgery itself and the risk of post-operative complications.
The first and most important risk is that of death which may occur during or following surgery. This risk is very low and indeed, during clinical trials on laparoscopic gastric banding carried out in the US, no deaths were recorded. Any form of major surgery will however always carry this risk and this needs to be borne in mind.
The second major surgical risk is that of gastric perforation (a tear in the stomach wall). Gastric perforation can occur during surgery (and on occasion shortly after and usually as a direct result of surgery) which will normally require further surgery to correct the problem. The risk of gastric perforation during gastric band surgery is low and can be expected to be seen in about 1% of patients.
Other surgical risks are those encountered with surgery in general and include such things as the risk posed by excessive weight, age and the presence of disease or pre-existing conditions. There are also risks associated with medication used during the operation (including the use of anesthetic) and the method of surgery used.
It should be noted that, although we talk about laparoscopic gastric band surgery as if it were a single specific operation, there are many different ways in which the procedure can be carried out depending upon the medical facility in which the procedure is done and the surgeon carrying out the operation.
Most of the complications following surgery are not considered to be serious, although there are some that will require hospitalization and possibly additional surgery. The most frequently seen post operative complications are nausea and vomiting, experienced by roughly half of all patients, regurgitation, experienced by about a third of all patients, gastric band slippage and associated problems, experienced by about a quarter of all patients and stoma obstruction, experienced by about 14% of patients.
Further common problems experienced by about 10% of patients include constipation, diarrhea, poor esophageal function and difficulty swallowing. About 10% of patients are likely to need further surgery to adjust the gastric band or to correct other problems arising out of the initial surgery and a similar number of patients are likely to require further surgery to correct post operative problems with the gastric banding system’s access port.
As well as these common problems there is a lengthy list of minor complications which will be encountered by about 1% of patients. These include such things as flatulence, dehydration, gastritis, dyspepsia, hiatal hernia and fever.
As with any surgery, gastric band surgery does carry risks and these need to be understood and weighed against the benefits of surgery.