A gastric band, commonly known as the Lap Band, is a silicon band that is placed around the upper portion of the stomach. On the inside of the band is a balloon. Attached to the balloon is a tube that attaches on the other side to a port that is located just under the patient’s skin.
The Lap Band works by squeezing the opening to the stomach and thereby restricting the amount of food one can eat in a single sitting. To create a tight ‘squeeze’ the band needs to be filled with saline (water).
What Is A Lap Band Fill?
A Lap Band fill is when the doctor takes a needle (about 3 inches long) and inserts it into the port that is located slightly under your skin on your abdominal wall. Once the needle makes it way into your port the doctor then injects saline. The saline travels down the tube attached to the port and into the balloon (your Lap Band).
As your band fills up, it puts pressure on the top of your stomach. The area above the band is known as your ‘pouch.’ When you eat the food will sit in the ‘pouch’ until it starts to break down and fit through the small opening to the rest of your stomach. Filling your band makes this opening smaller and that makes it harder for food to pass.
Essentially, a tighter band creates a smaller opening to your stomach. A smaller opening to your stomach means it will take longer for the food to make it into your stomach. And this means that you won’t be able to eat too much.
So the goal of a Lap Band fill is to find the right amount of fluid that allows the patient to eat enough to obtain the proper nutrition but not enough to gain weight.
What Is The Right Amount For A Band Fill?
Overfilling a Lap Band may prevent a patient from eating. And under-filling a Lap Band will prevent the Lap Band from doing its job. Unfortunately, there are no established protocols for finding the right fill level. Finding the right fill level is a constant guess and check that requires regular visits to the surgeons office.
How Often Do I Need My Band Filled?
Typically, the first year you will need to see your doctor 3 to 5 times to find the proper fit. After your first year most surgeons want to see you twice a year to make slight adjustments to the band.
To appropriately adjust your band the surgeon will ask you questions about your eating habits.
- How often are you hungry?
- Are you snacking?
- How much are you eating each meal?
- What kind of food are you eating? Proteins?
- When do you feel full?
The other key factor is your weight. At each band fill appointment the doctor will weigh you and ask you similar questions to those above. He or she will use this information to add or subtract saline from your band.
Is My Band Too Tight?
There are warning signs that indicate something is wrong with your band. If you experience any of these signs, contact your doctor immediately.
- Vomiting. Its never normal to vomit. Especially on a regular basis.
- Waking up at night coughing. This could indicate fluid or food is getting stuck above your pouch. This could lead to serious issues.
- Pain when eating solids.
- Sudden loss of volume control. You don’t feel full when you used to feel full. This could indicate the band slipped.
- Pain or redness at the port site.
How Much Do Lap Band Fills Cost?
Typically, if your insurance covered the cost of your procedure they will cover the cost of your Lap Band fills. Its a good idea to ask your surgeon about this before you have your lap band procedure. Most often, you will just need to pay the co-pay for a doctors visit.
However, if you paid cash or if your insurance does not cover Lap Band fills, then you may have to pay for these yourself.
The average cost of a Lap Band fill is $150. Some places charge as low as $50 per fill while others charge over $200 per fill. If you live in an area that is close to Mexico, you may find Lap Band fill centers. These are places where you can quickly go to get your band adjusted as needed for a low cost. These can be found all over the country but are more prevalent in places that are close to Mexico – many people in these areas will get pay less to have their procedure done in Mexico. Before paying cash or traveling abroad, consider all of the costs of Lap Band surgery.
Remember that you’ll need about 5 fills your first year and 2 fills every year after.
Will I Be Able To Feel My Port?
Most of the time it is hard to feel your port. But it is possible. The larger the layer of fat covering the port, the harder it is to feel and find your port. Do not be alarmed if you can feel your port underneath your skin. If you notice redness or pain in the area of your port you should call your doctor.
Often doctors have a difficult time finding your lap band port. This is especially true if they did not perform the procedure. Most surgeons use the scar as a landmark and then they feel slightly below or above the incision depending on where they placed the port.
Is It Painful When They Fill My Band?
Lap Band fills are typically not painful. If you’re scared of needles, you should know that while the needle is long, its not big and is typically just going through fatty tissue and then directly into your port.
Will My Surgeon Be Mad? I’ve Gained Weight
The most important thing with a Lap Band fill appointment is honesty. You are not the first patient that has gained weight back after surgery. Let your surgeon know exactly what you’ve been eating, how much, and how often.
Ultimately, you are the judge of your success with Lap Band surgery. Being embarrassed about not staying compliant with your diet or exercise is not going to hurt the doctor’s feelings. If you hide the fact that you’ve been cheating, then your doctor will not correctly fill your band and you will continue to gain weight.
While Lap Band fills are not fun, they are a necessary part of a succesful gastric band procedure and your continued weight loss. Think of your bi-annual appointments with your surgeon as a way of checking in, showing off your progress, and a chance to get the support and encouragement that you may need to stay on track. And always consider all of your options when it comes to weight loss surgery.