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Jacqui had Lap Band surgery in 2007. Five years after mediocre weight loss (50 lbs) she found herself having difficulty swallowing. Over the course of a few months it got worse. After some testing, her doctors found that her band had eroded into her stomach.
What is Lap Band Erosion?
Lap Band erosion is a condition when your Lap Band contacts your stomach wall, the stomach tissue is weakened, eventually causing a hole in your stomach. It can be caused by:
- The band being too tight, causing stomach tissue to eventually weaken and/or die due to insufficient blood flow.
- Stitches placed too deep in the lumen of the stomach that eventually become infected.
- Weakness in the stomach wall due to surgical injury.
- Vomiting and stomach acid causing an ulcer in the area of the band.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms of Lap Band Erosion?
In Jacqui’s case she stopped feeling restriction many months before she ever consulted with a doctor (in fact, she says she never felt that much restriction from her band). Then as her band eroded into her stomach she started to have difficulty swallowing. It got to the point where it would take 2 hours to finish sipping a protein shake. Her husband worried that she would choke in her sleep.
The signs and symptoms of Lap Band erosion can be subtle, making it difficult for doctors to diagnose (Gastric Band Erosion: Diagnosis And Treatement Alternatives).
Typical signs and symptoms of an erosion:
- Oozing from the port-site incision.
- Upper abdominal pain.
- Decreased oral intake.
The band erosion can be identified by your doctor via:
- CT Scan
- Upper gastrointestinal series
- Abdominal X-ray
Endoscopy is the most invasive but it identifies 100% of erosions. CT Scan’s identify about 80% of erosions and abdominal X-rays only identify about 25% of band erosions.
At the suggestion of her doctor, Jacqui chose to have it removed and her stomach repaired. This is the necessary treatment for a Lap Band erosion. If the buckle of the band has eroded into the stomach it is possible to remove the band via endoscopy but this is technically challenging. Most patients will undergo a laparoscopic procedure, like Jacqui, where the band is divided and removed. The stomach is then repaired.
After Removal of the Lap Band
After Jacqui’s Lap Band was removed the weight came back. Scared that her weight and health were out of control, she consulted with a local surgeon that told her about a new procedure called sleeve gastrectomy.
I didn’t want to fall down and not be able to get back up. I had to do something.
Jacqui promptly visited her surgeon and he suggested gastric sleeve surgery. It’s been about a year since surgery and Jacqui is down 105 lbs, she feels the restriction and she chooses to be healthy.
Jacqui’s Differences Between Lap Band and Gastric Sleeve Surgery
- Pain seemed less with gastric sleeve (however she thinks her pain tolerance has increased).
- She immediately felt the restriction from the sleeve where she really hadn’t with the Lap Band.
- Chocolate makes her sick since her gastric sleeve surgery.
- She felt less pain moving after gastric sleeve than she did with her Lap Band (again admitting that her pain tolerance has increased).
Keys To Success:
- Find a surgeon that you trust. Her surgeon admitted his previous complications, was honest and forward about the risks and benefits.
- Follow your doctors instructions to the ‘T.’ Don’t lift more than you’re supposed to. Follow the post-op diet.
- If you have questions, call your surgeon.
Weight loss surgery, whether it be gastric sleeve surgery or Lap Band surgery is not an easy solution or a quick fix. It’s a tool to help you get your weight down. And it requires work both mentally and physically.
If you’re interested in learning more about Lap Band complications, start here.