The initial short-term data available for Adjustable Gastric Banding (AGB- Lap Band and Realize Band in the US) was promoted as a minimally invasive procedure with an equal outcome and low risk compared to the more commonly performed gastric bypass or the most successful procedure, the Duodenal Switch operation.
Over the years the data that has been published has drawn a completely different picture. The weight loss has not been as anticipated or sustained in majority of the patients who have had the AGB. Furthermore, the incidence of complication has been far worse than initially presented.
Common complaints that the patient reported with AGB includes inadequate weight loss, symptoms of reflux, abdominal pain, and significant solid or food intolerance. The general consensus and treatments have been tailored towards adjustment of the band either by adding fluid to tighten, to hopefully promote weight loss or by removing fluid from the band to reduce the restriction and resolving the reflux and/or deep abdominal pain. This only is after a mechanical or placement issue has been ruled out.
Most recently published data (Poster presentation ASMBS 2011 San Diego, CA.) shows that majority of the patients who developed esophageal dilatation, will require conversion to a different bariatric surgery. Furthermore, the consensus developing is that the placement of band should not be performed since there are better alternatives that can yield much better results with a safety profile that is better than that of the AGB.
As I have summarized previously, if long term data is reviewed the complication rate of the AGB is much higher that initially reported. I think there has been selective reporting of the data performed to promote a procedure that in the very short term may look attractive, however, over time, complications surface. Almost all patients with AGB procedures are sent home the same day, and in the first few months some weight is lost and almost no complication of reflux, indigestion, or other esophageal motility problems are reported. Yet when the same patient data is collected past the 12 months then there is increase in the reported cases of the complication of the banding procedures. This has lead to European and South American Centers that have lead the wave of the AGB placement to make a reversal of course and now recommend that other surgical procedures be offered to patients instead of the temporary fix of the AGB.
With our own practice we have significantly reduced the AGB placements. It is impossible to recommend a procedure that its results cannot be backed up with scientific data. We also find ourselves, spending a significant amount of time correcting the information that most patients have obtained from non-medical sources and even in some cases from other health care providers that is just not correct.
These are some of the examples of the information that I would like to clarify and explain to patients since they are deceiving and inaccurate.
“The band is reversible.”
Let’s take the concept of the “reversibility”. Can anyone name a procedure that a patient may need to have it done as a cure to an ailment with a condition of reversibility? Would anyone like to have a reversible hip replacement? Appendectomy? Or Cancer surgery? The point that I am raising is that the option of reversibility all by itself is not a meaningful measure other than it can be removed. One has to ask why I would want it removed. The answer is that it has a high complication rate that surface later on and in almost all cases requires band removal.
“It has minimal risk.”
The issue of the risk is one that I also emphasize. I think is inadequate to discuss the option of the risk in vacuum with no discussion of the benefits of each procedure. In majority of the cases patients indicate that the AGB can be done as outpatient (correct) with minimal down time (correct). The long-term outcome however is not there and I would recommend that the patient have no surgery since the long term complication of the banding is significant for any marginal benefit of weight loss.
“Patients have complications with the gastric stapling.”
There is a general misunderstanding that all procedures that have to do with weight loss are either the “gastric banding or the stapling type”. It is critical that we all appreciate that there are a number of different surgical procedures, that have different outcomes and each one of them needs to be examined for suitability for each patient
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