Gastric bands for obesity may help people lose weight, but patients frequently experience problems with the device years after they’ve had the procedure, a new study finds.
Nearly 40 percent of patients in the study had some type of major complication with their band 12 or more years after they had the surgery. Major complications include things like infection or erosion of the band. About half the patients had to have the band taken out, and 60 percent required additional surgery.
The findings suggest gastric bands are not the answer to the obesity epidemic, the researchers say.
“Hopefully … people realize that the band is not the key to the problem of obesity , it’s not the solution,” said study researcher Dr. Jacques Himpens, of the European School of Laparoscopic Surgery in Belgium. While Himpens says that the procedure can still be performed, researchers should look for more efficient, less invasive alternatives, he said.
“It’s pretty sobering what they’ve described in their study,” said Dr. Thomas Inge, a pediatric surgeon at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The findings are pretty consistent with those of early studies that show the band has a lot of problems in the long term, Inge said. “Every year, you accumulate more risk of complications,” he said.
Others argue that the results, while concerning, may not be applicable to patients in the United States today.
“Obviously anything that shows that 50 percent of patients down the road might have a serious problem is very concerning,” said Dr. Sunil Bhoyrul, a bariatric surgeon at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif. But “I’m not sure the paper is relevant to a 21st century American practice,” Bhoyrul said.
The technique, as well as the product used in the study, are both outdated, he said. And the way the data was collected makes it subject to bias.
Bhoyrul advises that patients “work with surgeons who do a lot of these operations,” or more than 125 a year. Doctors who don’t do a lot of these procedures may not use the most modern surgical techniques and may not follow up their patients as much as is needed.