Gastric Bands: A Guide to the Benefits, Risks and Alternatives Available
The number of people in the UK recognised as clinically obese has trebled in the last 25 years. These rising figures have considerable impact on the country’s health services; a government report estimated that it’s likely to cost the NHS as much as £6.4 billion this year.
As cases of obesity grow, so too does the need for a solution. Of course, the initial recommendation is diet and exercise, though for many this isn’t a viable solution. If conventional methods of weight loss fail, other treatments need to be tried, such as a gastric band.
Gastric Bands: What Are They?
A gastric band, quite simply, is a band fitted around the upper section of the stomach. It’s actually a tubular balloon, which your surgeon can inflate by injecting liquid into it via a tube placed under your skin. When inflated, it restricts the movement of food through the rest of the stomach, which results in a feeling of fullness, even if only small amounts of food have been consumed.
Gastric band surgery has good rates of success, and patients can lose as much as two thirds of their excess body weight within two years of having their gastric band fitted.
The Benefits of Gastric Band Surgery
Gastric band surgery provides a great alternative for those who have been unable to lose weight through diet and exercise. It’s also available on the NHS, though you need to be morbidly obese, with a Body Mass Index of 40 or more.
It’s a good solution for those whose physical wellbeing is threatened by a related health condition, such as diabetes or raised blood pressure, as it gets rid of excess weight swiftly and safely.
Rapid weight loss is, of course, a significant benefit of this type of treatment. For people who have struggled with their weight for years, it provides a valuable opportunity to not only become healthier, but enjoy greater self-confidence in their appearance.
The Risks Involved
In general, gastric band operations are relatively low-risk. However, they are still a form of surgery, and as a result, there are certain risks involved. The band may slip or leak, or there may be complications with the connecting tubing. As with any operation, infection is always a potential issue.
Due to the fact that this type of surgery encourages rapid weight loss, gallstone development can also be a problem, though these can be removed with further surgical treatment. Some patients also report the following:
- Swelling and inflammation
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Pain and discomfort in the affected area
In addition to this, certain forms of medication can cause problems, such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs. If you need to take these forms of pain-killer, discuss with your doctor first.
A recent report in the BBC also highlighted the risks of seeking gastric band surgery abroad, since if any complications arise, your surgeon is difficult to reach. Jilly Trella from Bristol, who had gastric band surgery in Belgium after being refused surgery on the NHS, reported that after the surgery she “started feeling unwell,” and “couldn’t swallow or eat any liquids at all.” She ended up being treated as an emergency on the NHS.
Alternatives to Gastric Band Treatment
If you’re keen to lose weight for health reasons, there are a number of alternatives available to you. Of course, losing weight naturally through a combination of healthy eating and exercise is always going to be the preferable method of achieving weight loss; however, if this method hasn’t worked for you, there are other options to try.
Many people report that they find it easier to lose weight after hypnosis, or after regular consumption of foods such as basil seeds, which swell when added to water and add considerable bulk in the stomach, creating a sensation of fullness.
In addition to these natural methods, there are also other forms of surgery. A sleeve gastrectomy involves the removal of large portions of the stomach, and a gastric bypass operation shortens the digestive system, thus meaning the patient can only manage to consume small amounts of food.
There have also been interesting developments with pioneering new techniques to assist rapid weight loss, including the Endobarrier, a thin balloon which is inserted into the intestine, and restricts food absorption. However, this treatment is in its early stages and is not yet available on the NHS.
Assessing Your Options
For many people, carrying excess weight can be a depressing experience, and can adversely affect both physical and mental wellbeing. However, regardless of your keenness to lose the weight, it’s important to consider all options first. Having a gastric band fitted is a surgical procedure, and is not without its risks.
Before coming to a decision, you’ll need to talk to your GP, and work out which form of weight loss is best suited to your needs.