On December 3, 2010, a panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers voted in favor of lowering the body mass index criteria for Lap-Band surgery. If the panel’s recommendation is accepted by the FDA, millions more obese American could qualify for this weight loss procedure.
Under current federal guidelines, the Lap-Band is limited to patients who have a BMI of 40 or higher, or a BMI of 35 or higher and a weight-related health problem. The proposal is seeking to lower the patient criteria for Lap-Band surgery to a BMI of 35 or higher, or a BMI of 30 with at least one weight-related health problem, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
The Lap-Band was approved by the FDA under the current patient criteria in June 2001. The medical device is a small, adjustable stomach band that gets implanted into the body to help a patient lose weight by limiting food intake. It was developed as a safer alternative to gastric bypass surgery, a permanent weight loss procedure that involves rerouting the digestive system.
While lowering the BMI criteria would increase the number of individuals who could qualify for Lap-Band, it may not significantly change the number of patients who proceed with the procedure unless insurance companies follow suit. The cost of Lap Band surgery generally ranges from $12,000 to $25,000 in the United States. The device itself costs $3,000.
For those considering Lap Band surgery, the procedure is not cosmetic surgery, such as liposuction or a tummy tuck. Rather it is bariatric surgery, a surgical intervention for those whose weight poses a risk to their health. It assists them with weight loss, but the procedure itself does not remove the excess weight. Also, even though Lap Band surgery is considered one of the safest methods of weight loss surgery, it still involves risks and possible complications.
If the proposal is approved, it would offer millions of obese patients an opportunity to seek treatment that could potentially help them improve their health and quality of life. The Lap Band can be an effective weight loss tool for the obese, but it cannot replace a healthy lifestyle. Patients must realize that it will be up to them to adopt new eating behaviors for it to be successful.
The FDA’s final decision is expected within the next couple of months. While the FDA does not have to follow the advisory panels recommendation, it usually does.