All surgical procedures carry risks and, while the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band, in general, carries fewer risks than many other forms of weight loss surgery, there are nevertheless risks which you must be aware of before deciding to undergo surgery. Here we look at some of the general risks but it should be emphasized that each patient will also encounter risks specific to their own case and these will be explained to you by your surgeon.
Gastric band risks can be broadly divided into two categories – the risks associated with the surgery itself and the risk of post-operative complications.
The first and most important risk is that of death which can occur either during or following surgery. In the case of gastric band surgery this risk is extremely low and indeed, during US clinical trials on laparoscopic gastric banding, no deaths occurred. Major surgery in any form, however, will always carry this risk and this should be borne in mind.
The second major risk during surgery is that of gastric perforation. A tear in the stomach wall can occur during surgery (and occasionally following and normally as a direct result of surgery) which will invariably require further surgery to correct the problem. Once again the risk is low in the case of gastric band surgery and can be expected to be seen in about 1 percent of patients.
Other surgical risks are those associated with surgery in general and will include such things as the risk posed by age, excessive weight and the presence of pre-existing conditions and disease. There are also risks associated with medication used during the procedure (including anesthesia) and the method used during surgery. It should be noted that while we talk about laparoscopic gastric band surgery as if it were one specific operation there are in fact many different ways in which the procedure can be conducted depending upon the medical facility in which the operation is carried out and the surgeon performing the procedure.
The majority of complications following surgery are not considered to be serious but there are some that may require hospitalization and, occasionally, further surgery. The most common postoperative complications are nausea and vomiting, which is seen in about half of all patients, regurgitation, which is seen in about a third of all patients, gastric band slippage and associated problems, which is seen in about a quarter of all patients and stoma obstruction, which is seen in about 1 patient in 7. Other commonly occurring problems seen in about 1 patient in 10 include poor esophageal function, constipation, diarrhea, and difficulty swallowing. Slightly less than 1 patient in 10 is likely to need a second surgery to adjust the gastric band or to correct other problems arising out of the initial surgery and a slightly smaller number are likely to require further surgery to correct post-operative problems with the banding system’s access port.
In addition to these common problems, there is also a very long list of minor complications which will be encountered by a small number (less than 1 in 100) of patients. These include such things as gastritis, hiatal hernia, dyspepsia, flatulence, dehydration and fever.