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Problems and complications - Our new 5 year gastric band surgical warranty cover
Risks and complications

Gastric Band Problems & Complications

Gastric band surgery is no different to other similar stomach procedures; there is an element of risk involved, and the possibility of experiencing complications and/or side effects at some point.

Below we have outlined the possible surgical complications, potential problems shortly after surgery, and the complications that may arise in the longer term. We also provide details on the complication rates of gastric band surgery, and how you can try to reduce the risk of complications occurring.

Surgical / operative complications

As with any surgery, there are potential operative complications and risks with laparoscopic gastric band surgery; these include: 

  • Haemorrhage  
  • Adverse reactions to anaesthesia and/or medication
  • Deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the legs)
  • Pulmonary embolus (blood clot on the lungs)
  • Infection

  • Death

Short term problems (within a week of surgery)

From the time that your anaesthetic wears off, up until around one week after gastric band surgery, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

Left shoulder pain

It is common to experience some mild left shoulder pain shortly after band surgery, and this can last for over a week in some cases. This is as a result of the gas (carbon dioxide) that's used to inflate the abdomen during the operation. To relieve this pain we recommend using painkillers such as regular paracetamol, or co-codamol if the pain persists.


A sensation of being slightly short of breath is quite common after any laparoscopic (keyhole) abdominal surgery. Patients often find themselves taking smaller breaths due to post-surgery pain, and this is usually the cause of being breathless. It's nothing to be concerned about, and shouldn't last for longer than a couple of days. Painkillers may help to ease the pain, and subsequently relieve the breathlessness.

Pleuritic chest pain (sharp pain when breathing deeply), and pain, swelling, and redness in the calf muscle

These symptoms can potentially signify a more serious complication; a blood clot on the lung (pulmonary embolus). Blood clots on the lung usually start with a clot in the leg, typically the calf muscle. The first symptoms are usually pain and swelling in the calf a few days after surgery, followed by breathlessness / difficulty breathing, and chest pain when taking a deep breath.

After your gastric band surgery, you should have been prescribed medication (usually clexane), to inject under the skin, and some compression stockings. Please ensure that you use these and follow the instructions of your surgeon, as together these will help to prevent blood clots, but they won't eliminate the risk entirely.

Please note that if you are experiencing these symptoms, you should go immediately to your nearest accident and emergency department or walk-in centre for further investigation and pain relief.

Wound pain, redness, bruising and swelling

You will experience some wound pain after gastric band surgery, but painkillers are usually sufficient to relieve any major discomfort. It's also quite common to have some redness, bruising and swelling around the sutures, this does not mean it's infected.

Symptoms of an infected wound are heat, discharge (pale yellow/green), and an escalation of pain. You may also feel generally unwell and have a temperature. You will need antibiotic treatment to resolve this.

Retching and/or pain behind the breastbone

Retching or vomiting is not uncommon immediately after gastric band surgery, and is usually due to either the wrong type of foods being eaten, or from eating too quickly. Eating or drinking too quickly will cause pain behind the breastbone, and you may have to bring the food back up. In order to try and prevent these problems occurring, please remember to follow these guidelines:

  • A post-operative diet of only liquids for the first two weeks immediately after surgery. Followed by pureed foods for the next two weeks.
  • In the liquids only stage; ensure the liquids are smooth, with no lumps. Sip them slowly!
  • Eat slowly at all times, and chew the food well.

You will quickly learn which foods work well for you, and which can be problematic, so you will likely find that there are foods that are best avoided.

In rare cases, it's possible that repeated retching is being caused by post-operative swelling around the band. This can be resolved by removing the small amount of fluid that your band will have been filled with during surgery. Please contact us if you would like further advice on this.

Long term problems and complications

Here you will find a comprehensive list of problems and symptoms that you may experience at some point in the lifetime of your gastric band. These complications are all quite rare, and tend to occur after the initial post-operative period of around one week.

Retching and vomiting

The most common problem that gastric band patients experience is retching and vomiting, which may also be accompanied by mild abdominal pain, heartburn, and/or reflux. This is always abnormal, although it's not usually serious. There can be various possible causes for these symptoms, but the immediate advice to follow is:

  • Stop eating and drinking immediately.
  • Consume no food or drink at all for the next 12 hours.
  • Lie quietly and still.
  • If you feel thirsty, try sucking on some ice cubes.

An over-tight band

If your gastric band is too tight, then you may become intolerant to some foods and liquids, resulting in discomfort and/or vomiting. Please follow the general advice above for retching and vomiting, then contact us so that we can arrange to have some fluid removed from your band.

Inflammation of the stomach pouch

There can be a number of reasons why your gastric band pouch may have become inflamed, these include any recent illness or infection (colds, flu, chest infection, etc), and also food poisoning. Some forms of medication can also cause the pouch to be inflamed, including steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.

This can cause the lining of your stomach pouch to become inflamed and swollen, making if very difficult for food and drink to pass through the band and into the main part of the stomach. This often causes retching, cramping, heartburn, and sometimes pain behind the breastbone.

Band slippage

Gastric band slippage usually occurs when there has been an upward slippage (prolapse) of the stomach wall through the ring of the band, or because the stomach pouch has stretched so that a larger than normal portion of the stomach now sits above the band. In both cases, this is due to a large volume of food being eaten and/or food having being eaten too quickly, any subsequent vomiting can also be a factor in causing band slippage. With good initial placement of the band during surgery, and careful post-operative aftercare, band slippage is rare, and should occur in less than 4% of patients. However, some studies have reported the rate of band slippage to be as low as 0.26%.

Band erosion

Band erosion is very rare, and occurs in less than 0.5% of patients that have undergone gastric band surgery. It happens when the band wears through and effectively erodes the outer wall of the stomach. The band can actually work it's way completely through the stomach wall, so that it ends up situated inside the stomach. This is also sometimes known as "band migration". Band erosion, or migration, requires removal of the band.

Band port or tubing leakage

A gastric band has an access port through which the band can be adjusted by filling the band with saline. The port is linked to the band around your stomach by tubing. Occasionally, either the port or tubing can experience leakage of the saline that has been used to fill/adjust the band. Leaks most commonly occur from a break in the tubing, or if the system is punctured by a needle when trying to add saline into the port. However, gastric band leaks are growing increasingly rare due to advancements in the design of the device. In one recent study of 1,014 patients, just 12 (1.18%) experienced tubing or port problems.

Flipped access port

It's possible that the position of the gastric band access port may move slightly under the skin, and in some extreme cases, the port flips over. This can cause pain over the port site, and it can prevent further band adjustments from taking place. There's often no specific reason why this can occasionally occur, but it could indicate that the band access port was poorly positioned during surgery if it was placed over the ribs or lower breast bone. As you lose weight, the port can experience movement, particularly if it's been placed over an area of bone (this can also cause the port to protrude). In severe cases, a minor procedure may be required in order to reposition the port.


Complication rates

Post-operative complication rates for the gastric band are low, but even in the best centres, they do happen from time to time. Any provider who does not fully explain band complications and their incidence is not giving you the full story. Your gastric band will be put under a certain amount of strain, and there will inevitably be some wear and tear. Most studies suggest that at some point in the lifetime of the band; between 5-10% of patients will require additional surgery.

In the table below, you will find the average complication rates in the UK for each type of problem associated with gastric band surgery. You will also see the Healthier Weight average complication rate for that specified issue. This will provide you with an idea of the general risk involved, and it also demonstrates how having gastric band surgery with Healthier Weight significantly lowers the risk of experiencing any post-operative complications:
  Average / Typical     Healthier Weight 
Band slippage 
4-5% 1% 
Band erosion
0.3-0.5% Less than 0.1%
Port / tubing leakage
5-10% 2% 
Inaccessible port
0.3% Less than 0.1% 
Access port infection    
2% Less than 2% 

Data based on published article: Favretti F, Ashton D, Busetto L et al. The Gastric Band: First-Choice Procedure for Obesity Surgery. World J Surg 2009; 33: 2039-2048

How can I reduce the risk of complications occurring?

We make two recommendations for patients undergoing gastric band surgery. Firstly, we advise that they follow the dietary recommendations provided, this is especially important in the weeks immediately after surgery. Secondly, if following surgery you are vomiting on a regular basis after eating, then you must contact us to let us know. Patients that follow our dietary advice should not be vomiting, so if you inform us as soon as this starts, it is possible for us to take measures that will reduce the risk of you experiencing complications.

Protection against complications

At Healthier Weight, we are the only provider that offers a 2 year gastric band warranty in our standard package. This is possible because of our lower than average complication rates. Having this warranty means that you'll have financial peace of mind, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be cared for in a specialist centre, and at no additional cost should any complications arise. You are free to concentrate on maximising your weight loss. For those patients requiring additional piece of mind, we also have the option of extending the warranty cover for up to 5 years!

If you experience a complication and you do not have warranty cover, you would have to pay again to have revisional surgery in a specialist hospital. You should assume that your risk of experiencing one of these complications within 2 years is 1 in 20. However, with some providers the risk is far greater.