Gastric Banding Questions and Answers

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Gastric Banding Surgery Information

Note: It is important that you ask us all the questions you have about weight-loss surgery and the gastric banding procedure. If you can't find the information you are seeking, feel free to ask our team members any questions you have.

Before Surgery

  • How do I prepare for my gastric banding procedure?
    - In the weeks before your surgery, we highly recommend that you prepare yourself in the following ways:
    - Start exercising, if you aren't doing so. Getting into the exercise habit will be vital to your post-surgical success.
    - Make healthful food choices. Cut back on fast food and high-calorie items.
    - At home, use smaller plates to help you choose smaller portions.
  • What other guidelines should I follow?
    Two weeks before your surgery, we will give you a special pre-operative nutritional program in order to help prepare your body for the surgery. Following this program will help to shrink your liver and reduce bleeding or other complications when your surgery is performed.
  • Do I need to give up smoking or drinking?
    You must quit smoking and avoid all carbonated beverages (soda, carbonated water, beer, etc.).
  • What if I don't live in the San Diego area? Can I get a consultation the same day as the informational seminar if I am coming from out of town?
    If you live at least two hours or more away by car, we should be able to accommodate you with advance notice. We will need to contact you to send you a seminar packet to fill out, so that you can attend the seminar and a consultation the same day. When you call to register for the seminar, please let the phone representative know that you are coming from out of town and they will assist you.
  • After I am approved for surgery by your office, when will surgery be scheduled?
    If you are insured, your surgery and pre-operative appointments will be scheduled once we receive an authorization and/or benefit verification from your insurance company. This authorization process can take up to six weeks. If you are paying for surgery yourself, the program administrator will contact you to schedule the surgery within a week of your consultation. The actual surgery date will be at least two weeks from your first visit to our clinic.

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After Surgery

  • Will I be sick a lot after I get my gastric band?
    Having a gastric band means limiting your food intake. If you feel nauseated or sick on a regular basis, it may mean that you are not chewing your food well enough or that you are not following your dietary guidelines properly. However, it could also mean that there is a problem with the placement of the band so you should contact us if this problem persists. Vomiting should be avoided as much as possible as it can cause the small stomach pouch to stretch. It can also lead to slippage of part of the stomach through the band and reduce the success of the operation. In some cases, it can require another operation.
  • How long will it take to recover after surgery?
    If gastric banding is performed laparoscopically, patients typically spend less than 24 hours in the hospital. It takes most patients from four to seven days to return to work and a month to six weeks to resume exercising. In the case of open surgery or if there are complications, recovery may take longer.
  • Will I be prescribed any pain medication after the surgery?
    Yes, we usually prescribe liquid Tylenol for the first week. Most of our patients can discontinue the pain medication after four days.
  • How much weight will I lose?
    Gastric banding results vary from patient to patient, and the amount of weight you lose depends on several things. The band needs to be in the right position and you need to be committed to your new lifestyle and eating habits. Weight-loss surgery is not a miracle cure and the pounds won’t come off on their own.

    It is very important to set achievable weight-loss goals from the beginning. A weight loss of two to three pounds a week in the first year after the operation is possible, but one pound a week is more likely. The majority of our patients lose about 100 pounds over the first year. Twelve to 18 months after the operation, weekly weight loss is usually less.

    Remember that you should lose weight gradually. Losing weight too quickly creates a health risk and can lead to a number of problems. The main goal of weight loss is to prevent, improve or resolve health problems associated with severe obesity.
  • How do weight-loss results with gastric banding compare to those with gastric bypass?
    Surgeons have reported that gastric bypass patients lose weight faster in the first year. At five years, however, many gastric band patients have achieved weight loss comparable to that of gastric bypass patients. You should focus on long-term weight loss and remember that it is important to lose weight gradually while reducing obesity-related risks and improving your health.
  • Does the gastric banding procedure require frequent office visits after surgery?
    Check-ups are a normal and very important part of the follow-up.
  • Will I need eventually need plastic surgery for the excess skin I may have after losing weight?
    That is not always the case. As a rule, plastic surgery will not be considered for at least a year or two after the weight-loss surgery, as sometimes the skin will mold itself around the new body tissue. Give the skin the time it needs to adjust before you decide to have more surgery.
  • Is it true that the gastric band seems “tighter” in the morning?
    This is a fairly common feeling, especially for people with bands that are tight or just after an adjustment. During the day, the water content in the body changes and this may cause the band to feel “tighter” some of the time. Some women have also noticed that the gastric band feels tighter during menstruation.
  • Will my food still be digested normally after gastric banding is performed?
    Yes, your digestive system will function the same, you will simply be digesting less food because you are eating less.
  • Will my gastric band set off airline security devices or other detection systems?
    No, it won't.
  • How soon after my surgery can I take a bath, get in the hot tub or go swimming (i.e., be submerged in water)?
    You should be able to resume these activities four weeks from the date of your procedure.
  • For the post-operative diet, can I skip to the next phase if I feel up to it?
    No. Even though you may be feeling great, your stomach is still swollen and tender on the inside. It takes approximately four weeks for the stomach to heal completely. We developed the post-op meal plan to help your stomach heal without stress. It only takes one bite of solid food to obstruct the band during this time. In fact, the number one cause of an early slip is eating solid foods before the established timeline.
  • Can I still have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) after getting the gastric band?
    Yes, an MRI may be safely performed.

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Nutrition and Exercise

  • Does the gastric band limit any physical activity?
    No, your band does not hamper physical activity including aerobics, stretching and strenuous exercise.
  • Will I feel hungry or deprived with the gastric band?
    The gastric band system makes you eat less and feel full in two ways – first by reducing the capacity of your stomach and second, by increasing the time it takes food to get through the digestive system. After a small meal, you should feel full. If you follow the nutrition guidelines when you choose your food and then chew it well, you should not feel hungry or deprived. Remember that gastric banding is a tool to help you change your eating habits.
  • Can I eat anything in moderation?
    After your stomach has healed, you may eat most foods that don’t cause you discomfort. However, because you can only eat a little, it is important to include foods full of important vitamins and nutrients such as those advised by your dietitian. If you eat foods that contain lots of sugar and fat or drink liquids full of “empty” calories, such as milkshakes, the effect of the gastric band may be greatly reduced or eliminated.
  • Will I need to take vitamin supplements?
    You may. It’s possible to not get enough vitamins from three small meals a day. At your regular check-ups, your specialist will evaluate whether you are getting enough vitamin B12, folic acid and iron.
  • What about other medications?
    You should be able to take prescribed medications but you may need to use capsules, break big tablets in half or dissolve them in water so they do not get stuck in the stomach pouch and make you sick. You should always ask the doctor prescribing your medications about this.
  • What if I go out to eat?
    Order only a small amount of food, such as an appetizer. Eat slowly. Finish at the same time as your table companions. You might want to let your host or hostess know in advance that you cannot eat very much.
  • What about alcohol?
    Alcohol has a high number of calories and breaks down vitamins. An occasional glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage, though, is not considered harmful to weight loss.
  • Will I suffer from constipation?
    There may be some reduction in the volume of your stools, which is normal after a decrease in food intake that results in less fiber consumption. This should not cause severe problems. If difficulties do arise, let us know as soon as possible. And remember to drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day.

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Adjustments

  • How is the band adjusted?
    Gastric band adjustments are often performed in the radiology department. They are done there so the access port can be clearly seen. When X-rays are used, your reproductive organs should be shielded. Sometimes adjustments can be done in an outpatient clinic or office, and local anesthesia may or may not be needed. A fine needle is passed through the skin into the access port to add or subtract saline from the band. This process most often takes only a few minutes and most patients say it is nearly painless.
  • Do I have to be careful with the access port just underneath my skin?
    There are no restrictions related to the access port. It is placed under the skin in the abdominal wall and once the incisions have healed, it should not cause discomfort or limit any physical exercise. The only sensation you may experience from the port is when the band is adjusted. If you feel persistent discomfort in the port area, let us know as soon as possible.
  • Can the band be removed?
    Although your gastric band is not meant to be removed, it can be, and in some cases laparoscopically. Surgeons report that the stomach generally returns to its original shape once the band is removed. After the removal, however, you may soon go back up to your original weight or even gain more.
  • What will happen if I become ill?
    One of the major advantages of the gastric band is that it can be adjusted. If your illness requires you to eat more, the band can be loosened by removing saline from it. When you have recovered from your illness and want to lose weight again, the band can be tightened by increasing the amount of saline. If the band cannot be loosened enough, it may have to be removed.
  • What about pregnancy?
    Becoming pregnant can be easier as you lose weight. Your menstrual cycle may become more regular. If you need to eat more while you are pregnant, the band can be loosened. After the pregnancy the band may be made tighter again, and you can resume losing weight.

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