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Focus: Lap Band Obesity Surgery Can Help Some People with Diabetes Control their Condition

separator Very often, people who suffer from obesity develop diabetes as a result of their weight. Many people who’ve tried and failed time and time again to reach a healthy weight through diet and exercise begin to consider exploring whether obesity surgery would be right for them. 

Statistics show that only about 5 percent of obese people have long-term weight loss success. Many surgeons who perform weight loss surgery believe that obesity itself is a disease. They believe that the operation is the best way to help obese people fight their disease and recover from life-threatening health problems. 

It’s true that when people have the surgery and lose weight, obesity-related diabetes often improves or goes away altogether. In many cases, patients who stick with a healthy food and exercise regimen are able to maintain good health. 

But the surgery isn’t for everyone. Weight loss surgery creates a need for a strong commitment to change your lifestyle—to eating healthier food in small amounts and to exercising nearly every day. 

Strict criteria for patients
The decision to have weight loss surgery is never made lightly. Typically, patients must meet strict criteria before their doctors approve the procedure. Common criteria include: 

  •  Body mass index (BMI) greater than 40


  • BMI between 35 and 40 with serious additional conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, apnea, high blood pressure
  • Age over 18 years old
  • Proof that you’ve tried and failed to lose weight numerous times

If you meet the initial criteria, there’s generally additional health screening and a psychiatric evaluation to undergo as well. The decision to have the surgery is one you and your doctor make together. 

Lap band weight loss surgery is minimally invasive
The newest weight loss procedure that doctors are beginning to offer in the U.S. is called lap band surgery. Surgeons generally perform the procedure in a minimally invasive way, called laparoscopy. Smaller incisions are made, which makes recovery quicker and less painful. 

During the procedure, surgeons place an inflatable silicon band across the upper part of the stomach. This creates a small pouch, making it necessary to eat smaller amounts of food. Tubes connect the band to a port, which is placed under the skin. (As patients lose weight, the band may become loose, so the surgeon can make the band tighter by injecting it with saline solution.) 

After the surgery, patients are able to eat only about 2 to 3 ounces of food at a time, for the rest of their lives. However, they usually feel full and satisfied from that small amount. 

Lap band surgery is different from another kind of weight loss surgery you may have heard about. That procedure, called roux-en-Y gastric bypass, also creates a smaller stomach. But in addition to a smaller stomach, the roux-en-Y procedure makes a bypass that ensures that food doesn’t enter a large amount of intestine. With the roux-en-Y, people are able to eat only certain types of food. They have to be on a strict regimen of vitamins and other supplements. 

With the lap band surgery, patients can eat most types of food. They simply have to cut back on the amount. Weight loss is usually more gradual with the lap bad procedure. 

Lap band gastric surgery—high safety profile, but there are complications
The lap band procedure has a high safety profile. Surgeons in Europe and Australia have been performing lap band surgery for 11 years, and the results have been good. The procedure has been approved in the U.S. for several years, and results here have been good as well. 

As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur. Infection is one. Additionally, there’s a small risk that the band around the stomach can move out of place. And there’s a risk of mechanical failure of the band. Surgeons are able to remove the band quickly if it becomes problematic. 

Life after surgery has its challenges
Life after obesity can be highly rewarding as you lose weight, learn to eat well and commit to an exercise regimen. Patients begin to feel better as the serious health conditions they may have had before the surgery begin to become less severe.

But there are challenges too. Learning to adjust to a new body image can be more difficult than some people expect. Relationships with spouses sometimes become unexpectedly strained, because the dynamics are different now. Having strict limitations on the amount of food you can eat gets tiresome sometimes. 

That’s why it’s important to take part in all the follow-up care that’s offered. Support groups and counseling can help you adjust to the big changes that are happening in your life. Talking with nutritionists and dietitians can help you determine just what you should be eating. Exercise professionals can help you design a workout plan that meets your needs. 

Weight loss surgery is a tool that people have used to get back on track to lead a healthy lifestyle. It’s not a quick fix. But for people who have tried and failed to lose weight, over and over again, the surgery offers new hope.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders.
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