Gastric banding surgery for weight loss

Learn about the risks and benefits of gastric banding surgery for weight loss.

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The issue

The number of Canadians who are overweight or obese has increased over the past several years. Today, approximately 1 in 4 Canadian adults is obese.

Obesity can put you at risk for a number of chronic diseases. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce this risk and improve your overall health. Before considering weight loss surgery, look at all your treatment options.

Weight loss treatments

Weight loss methods for people who are obese include:

For those who have been unable to lose weight using non-surgical methods, weight loss surgery may be beneficial. Surgery is usually only recommended for morbidly obese people with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40. It might also be recommended for obese individuals with a BMI over 35 if those individuals suffer from at least one other medical problem related to obesity (heart disease, diabetes, breathing problems).

Gastric bands

Currently, one of the most common types of weight loss surgery is gastric banding. Gastric banding is a minimally-invasive procedure. It involves making a few small openings in the abdomen to insert a gastric band.

Gastric bands (also known as adjustable gastric bands) are medical devices implanted during gastric banding surgeries. The gastric band is a silicone device that fits like a bracelet around the top of the stomach. The band creates a pouch about the size of a golf ball. It fits just below the junction between the esophagus and the stomach. A miniature camera is used to help position the band correctly. The band restricts the amount of food that can be eaten by narrowing the outlet into the stomach.

Gastric banding surgery can be an effective way for people to lose weight and improve their health. It is especially effective when patients eat less and change their behaviour around food and exercise.

Risks related to the surgery

All surgery has risks. Weight loss surgery has both minor and major risks. Minor ones are:

  • bleeding
  • swelling
  • pain
  • bruising
  • stomach irritation
  • heartburn

Major risks are:

  • infection
  • ulcers
  • damage to adjacent organs
  • stomach perforation
  • death

Certain patients may have higher risk for some of these complications because of their obesity or other pre-existing medical conditions. Risks also arise from the anaesthetics and other drugs used in surgery and care.

Risks related to gastric bands

Gastric band patients most commonly report these complications:

  • the band wearing away through the stomach wall,
  • the band tearing, leaking, or coming apart,
  • the outlet to the stomach being blocked,
  • the band slipping or moving from its correct position, or
  • the band deflating because the esophagus can become bloated or enlarged

These incidents can happen months or years after the surgery. The patient may need more procedures to fix the problem or to remove the band.

Reduce your risk before surgery

Ask yourself whether gastric banding is right for you

  • Have you tried to lose weight before?
  • Are you obese?
  • Do you have any other pre-existing medical conditions?

People with stomach disorders or a dependence on alcohol or drugs should not have gastric banding surgery.

Ask your prospective surgeon some questions

  • Is gastric banding the right choice for you? Is it a good option given your medical history, weight management history, and other weight loss treatments? Are there other options, including alternative surgical treatments?
  • What is your doctor's experience with different weight loss surgeries and with gastric banding in particular? How many surgeries has she or he performed and what complications they have seen in the past?
  • What does the doctor expect you to commit to in terms of diet, exercise, behaviour changes and follow-up care?

Inform yourself

  • Speak to other patients who have had gastric band surgery about their experiences.
  • Read the product labelling for the gastric band. Manufacturers of gastric bands must give device labelling (or instructions) that include specific information about the device. More information may be found online or in guides and brochures at your doctor's office.

Reduce your risk after surgery

It is important to understand the long-term commitment required to achieve success with gastric banding.

  • Carefully follow the instructions that have been given to you after your surgery. Speak with your doctor if you have any questions.
  • Permanent and significant changes to eating habits and food choices are required for gastric banding to be effective.
  • Long-term monitoring by your doctor or dietician will be required.

Health Canada's role

As the federal authority, Health Canada regulates medical devices such as gastric bands. It does this through the Medical Devices Regulations, which fall under the authority of the Food and Drugs Act. These regulations apply to all medical devices imported or sold in Canada.

Before any medical device is authorized for sale in Canada, Health Canada must:

  • review medical devices,
  • assess their safety, effectiveness and quality, and
  • verify that the products are compliant through carrying out inspections, investigating complaints, monitoring recalls and issuing licenses to manufacturers.

For more information

To report complaints about gastric bands and other medical devices contact us online or call our toll-free hotline at 1-800-267-9675.

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