The FDA (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has issued a report that highlights the dangers of gastric band surgery and found that many adverts for the procedure are misleading and fail to highlight the risks.
“FDA’s concern is that these ads glamorize the Lap-Band without communicating any of the risks” Steven Silverman, FDA.
Gastric band surgery seems to be becoming more common and many people are getting the treatment in privately run hospitals and clinics. Adverts always highlight the most successful case studies and rarely talk about complications that can occur.
“Surgery itself has risks, including death, and those risks are heightened for people who are obese” Herbert Lerner, M.D., FDA.
What is Gastric Band Surgery?
A gastric band is simply a band that restricts the flow of food through the small stomach pouch into the main stomach. This means that you cannot consume as much food in a single sitting as the small stomach pouch and esophagus soon become full.
With modern gastric bands a tube is attached to allow adjustments to be made to the band by keyhole surgery. This can allow a more gradual tightening of the band so that a person adjusts their eating habits at a more confortable pace, it also allows the band to be loosened if a person is losing too much weight.
The FDA has highlighted one particular product that is being aggressively marketing, and have decided to take action. The FDA share this advert on their website:
Ready to be the next weight-loss success story?
Let your new life begin!
I lost 90 pounds with the Lap-Band!
The FDA has contacted 8 surgeries and also the marketing company 1-800-GET-THIN LLC about their promotion of the Lap-Bands.
Adverts for Lap-Band have been seen on billboards, bus placards, newspaper advertisements and the Internet. They tend to feature very fit and healthy men and women (always professional fitness models) who claim to have lost a huge amount of weight in a short time.
Federal Law and the Advertising of Medical Devices
Federal laws are in place to protect consumers from this form of advertising. By federal law, product advertising for medical devices of this nature have to include warnings and information about precautions, side effects, and contraindications (health problems that make the procedure unsafe). 1-800-GET-THIN LLC has 15 working days to remove all advertising – this may be a difficult task online though.
Approved Lap-Band Solutions
The FDA has approved 2 Lap-Band solutions:
- Lap-Band, by Allergan Inc.
- Realize Adjustable Gastric Band, by Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc.
These products have been approved to be used on adults (over the age of 18 years) who have failed to lose weight by dieting and exercising. Patients who should consider the procedure are those with a BMI of over 40, or over 35 if they have an obesity related health problem already, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
The Risks of Gastric Band Surgery
The FDA point out that as well as the risks of the surgery itself, post-surgery there are several more important risks to consider:
- upset stomach or pain
- stretching of the stomach pouch
- stretching of the esophagus
- nausea and vomiting
- problems with swallowing
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- displacement of the gastric band
- erosion of the band through the stomach wall and into the stomach
The last two risks require further surgery to correct the problem, posing even greater risk to health.
People Cheat the Gastric Band
Once a gastric band is fitted a permanent lifestyle change is required. Binging is no longer allowed as meals must remain small to prevent. However, some people have learnt ways to cheat gastric bands, such as by liquidizing meals and drinking softened ice-cream – just to get more food inside.
Although some people fail to lose weight with lifestyle interventions, this is usually because a soft approach is taken. It still seems odd that some people will opt for major surgery before making a real effort to exercise more and eat healthily. Some people are in very difficult situations, but many people really can do without this form of treatment. Maybe if doctors were in a position to be harder on patients then there would be less surgery. However, we do now live in an age where doctors are criticised for telling people that they are overweight!
You can read the full report from the FDA here: FDA Targets Gastric Band Weight-Loss Claims – Dec. 13, 2011