Gastric Banding Effective For Long-term Solution To Obesity
January 18, 2013

Lap Band Surgery Found To Be Effective For Long-Term Weight Loss

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Researchers from the Center for Obesity Research and Education (CORE) at Monash University recently completed a landmark study which found that laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, otherwise known as lap banding, could be an effective strategy for managing obesity in the long-term.

The team of investigators tracked 3,227 patients treated in Australia during a 15-year period (approximately from 1994 to 2011). 78 percent of the participants in the study were female with an average age of 48 years. The follow-up of the study was recently featured in the Annals of Surgery, and revealed how a number of patients who had lap band surgery were able to keep off an average weight loss of 26 kilogram for over ten years after their surgery. In particular, 714 individuals had the surgery at least 10 years ago while 54 individuals had the treatment at least 15 years ago.

"These results show that when you have a significant problem with obesity, a long-term solution is available," explained Paul O'Brien, a professor at Monash University, in a prepared statement. "This surgery is safe and effective, and it has lasting benefits. Substantial weight loss can change the lives of people who are obese — they can be healthier and live longer."

The researchers believe that with weight loss, there is also better control of type 2 diabetes.

"In obese patients with type 2 diabetes, weight loss after gastric banding can lead to effective control of blood sugar levels without the need for medication in about three-quarters of cases," noted O'Brien in the statement.

The study participants had followed a set of rules related to eating, exercise, and activity set out by the researchers; during that study period, approximately one in 20 patients removed the lap band.

"In treating a chronic disease such as obesity over a lifetime, it is likely that something will need to be corrected at some time in some patients," continued O'Brien in the statement. "The study shows a marked reduction of revisional procedures with the introduction of the new version of the Lap-Band 6 years ago. Importantly, those who had revisional surgery lost as much weight in the long term as those who did not need it."

The researchers also compared the effects of different types of weight loss-surgeries, such as gastric banding that is normally completed in a day as opposed to higher risk procedures that necessitate longer hospital stays. They found that the weight loss results were similar for individuals who had gastric banding and gastric bypass.

"Access to weight-loss surgery in Australia remains severely limited for many obese patients as relatively few cases are treated within the public health system. We are working hard to improve access," concluded O'Brien in the statement. "We have ample evidence that weight-loss surgery is effective, and it is unfair that half of eligible patients cannot be treated, particularly as it has been shown that gastric banding is a highly cost-effective health care measure. The stigma of obesity, and the assumption that it is the person's fault, entrenches discrimination against people who could benefit."

Though this study shows the benefits of weight loss surgery, particularly lap band surgery, other groups have noted that operations such as gastric bypass surgery are not a quick fix for diabetes. For example, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health released a statement last year that cautioned the notion that gastric bypass surgery could reverse diabetes. They issued the statement in response to two controversial studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, arguing that there was a lack of long-term evidence on the procedure.

"To promote gastric bypass surgery as a quick fix for diabetes is unconscionable. The outsized media attention to these limited studies gives false hope to diabetics and could be dangerous to health," commented Jane L. Delgado, the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, in a prepared statement. "The studies have no proof of long-term effect (more than five years), sample sizes are small, and they did not test for patients older than 60 years of age."