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 a band adjustment and 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.
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 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.
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:
| ||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.