Overview of the LAP-BAND® System

The LAP-BAND® Adjustable Gastric Banding (AGB) System is an FDA-approved medical device for weight loss in qualified individuals. The intervention promotes weight loss by limiting food consumption (restrictive rather than malabsorption) and controlling hunger sensations. It has been proven to be a safe and effective method of achieving significant and long-lasting weight loss in individuals affected by obesity.

Gastric banding is a restrictive type of weight loss surgery.

With this method of weight loss surgery, a specially designed gastric band is surgically placed around the upper portion of the stomach. The intended effect is to create a smaller stomach pouch that reduces the amount of food that the stomach can hold at any one time and to make a narrower opening that slows the movement of food and increases the feeling of fullness. By controlling food intake and hunger sensations, the LAP-BAND acts as a tool to help a person eat less and thus lose weight.

The LAP-BAND procedure does not involve any cutting or stapling of the stomach or any bypassing of the intestines as in other weight loss procedures. It can be removed if medically necessary and the amount of restriction can be adjusted depending on the specific needs of the patient.

About The LAP-BAND® System

The LAP-BAND System consists of an adjustable gastric band, tubing, and an access port. It was the first adjustable gastric banding procedure approved for use in the United States and is a popular type of weight loss surgery. The LAP-BAND provides individuals affected by obesity with an effective method of weight loss surgery that is healthier, safer, and less traumatic than other surgical procedures such as gastric bypass or stomach stapling.

The BioEnterics® LAP-BAND® Adjustable Gastric Banding System was designed by an American company, INAMED Health, and acquired by Allergan, Inc in 2005. It was approved by the FDA for use in the United States in June 2001, but has been used in Europe and Australia since 1993.

How is the LAP-BAND® Installed?

The LAP-BAND is placed into the body by a bariatric surgeon using minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery techniques. Laparoscopic surgery is the method of operating through a few small incisions and offers the advantages of reduced pain, quicker recovery, and a shorter hospital stay than open surgery (when the abdominal wall is cut open with one large incision).

The gastric band is placed around the upper part of the stomach and an access port is fastened to the abdominal wall. The two components are connected by tubing to allow for band adjustments to increase or decrease restriction. The surgery usually takes less than one hour to perform and may even be performed as an out-patient procedure.

How does the LAP-BAND® Work?

The LAP-BAND is a tool that helps a person lose weight by restricting eating. The LAP-BAND squeezes the top portion of the stomach, which creates a new smaller stomach pouch above the band while leaving the remainder of the stomach intact below the band. The smaller stomach can only hold a small amount of food, so less food can be eaten at any one time. Also, a feeling of fullness occurs sooner, because the nerves that signal the brain when your stomach is full are located in the upper part of the stomach.

The LAP-BAND also makes the stomach outlet narrower, slowing down the movement of food from the upper stomach pouch to the lower stomach pouch. By slowing down the digestion process, the feeling of fullness lasts longer between meals.

One of the benefits of the LAP-BAND is that it can be adjusted to affect the rate of weight loss without additional surgery. The inside of the gastric band contains an inflatable balloon in which saline can be added or removed in order to change the size of the opening. Adding saline to the band, known as a LAP-BAND fill, makes the opening smaller and further restricts eating. Adjustments are made by a doctor, who inserts a needle through the access port located beneath the skin to add or remove saline. The first fill is typically done 4-6 weeks after surgery.

More details about the LAP-BAND can be found in our side-by-side LAP-BAND System vs. REALIZE Band comparison chart.

Patient Criteria

Only a qualified doctor or bariatric surgeon can properly evaluate your health and determine if you are a good candidate for LAP-BAND surgery, but you may qualify if:

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) is 40 or higher, or BMI is at least 30 with one or more obesity comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or severe sleep apnea
  • Weight is twice as much as ideal weight, or 100 pounds more than ideal weight
  • Between the ages of 18 and 60 (although age alone does automatically disqualify you)
  • Overweight/obese for at least five years
  • Failed at previous serious attempts at weight loss (diet, exercise, medications)
  • Willing to make changes in eating and lifestyle habits
  • Willing to commit to regular doctor appointments and follow-up care
  • Do not have a dependency on drugs or alcohol
  • Do not have a disqualifying health condition or an illness causing obesity, such as an inflammatory disease, condition of the gastrointestinal tract, glandular disease, severe lung or heart disease, cirrhosis, long-term steroid treatment, pregnancy

Although these are general guidelines for LAP-BAND surgery, your doctor may use other criteria as well as considering your overall health. If you are interested in weight loss surgery, the next step is to find a qualified doctor or bariatric lap band surgeon who can properly evaluate you and discuss your weight loss options.

Cost of LAP-BAND Surgery

The cost of lap band surgery in the United States typically ranges from $12,000 to $25,000. This amount covers the cost of the medical facility, bariatric surgeon, and associated surgical costs (such as anesthesia). Other cost factors to consider include follow-up care and appointments for lap band fills.

Although some people may choose to have weight loss surgery in Mexico since the upfront cost is often less than in the United States without lap band insurance, other factors must be considered such as travel expenses and making arrangements for long-term follow-up care and adjustments to the band. Rather than traveling abroad, patients may want to consider the option of financing lap band surgery.

Lap-Band Surgery Insurance Coverage

The LAP-BAND System is covered by most insurance companies that provide obesity surgery benefits, although coverage will vary between health plans and providers.

When benefits are available, common requirements for approval include:

  • Letter of Medical Necessity from doctor documenting qualifying BMI and health status
  • Previous weight loss attempts in a medically supervised weight loss program
  • Positive psychological evaluation

Weight Loss Results

The average amount of weight loss in LAP-BAND patients is about 1-1/2 to 2 pounds per week and about 50% of excess weight within two years. Individual results will vary from patient to patient as actual weight loss depends on a combination of factors, including starting weight, diet after surgery, and exercise habits. Weight loss also brings about an improvement or resolution in many obesity related health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea.