Bariatric Surgeon Answers: Can You Convert the Lap-Band to a Gastric Sleeve?

Gastric Banding to Gastric Sleeve in Los Angeles, CA

To clear your doubts regarding gastric sleeve, consult the professionals. Make sure to discuss well about your previous lap-band surgery and how safe it is to convert into a gastric sleeve.

Gastric banding used to be the go-to of bariatric surgery procedures. Patients liked that the gastric band was a reversible type of surgery. There was no reason to commit to a permanent surgery in order to lose a significant amount of weight.

Then, somewhere along the line, the Lap-Band, as it has come to be known, fell out of favor.

We can trace the popularity of the Lap-Band procedure to around 2008 when demand peaked. Cases of the procedure have fallen ever since.

The procedure is commonly referred to as Lap-Band surgery after the brand name of the most popular version of the device. Kind of like how Band-Aid has come to replace the word bandage. Or Kleenex has now become the universal term for tissue.

The reason for the decline in Lap-Band patients is due to the increased awareness of the risks and limited benefits involved. They still perform lap-Band surgery today, just not as often.

We now know that patients who are fitted with a gastric band are likely to require follow-up surgery, also known as bariatric revision surgery.

During this follow-up, the surgeon has options. The gastric band can be removed, or another bariatric surgery can be performed to reinvigorate the patient’s weight loss journey.

Lap Banding to Gastric Sleeve

One surgery that has become celebrated as a savior for Lap-Band patients is the gastric sleeve, also referred to medically as the laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy (LSG).

The gastric sleeve is incredibly effective as a weight loss surgery. It is safe and can help you lose up to 60% or more of your excess weight, which is significantly more than bariatric surgery patients are told they can lose with gastric banding.

If you have gastric banding and want to know if a gastric sleeve might be right for you, keep reading.

The following is what you could learn by scheduling a consultation with world-renowned bariatric surgeon Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki of Healthy Life Bariatrics. Here is a rundown of what you should know if you currently have a Lap-Band and wish to move to a more effective bariatric surgery, such as the gastric sleeve.

Converting a Gastric Band to a Gastric Sleeve: What is Involved?

A person in a lab coat holding a pair of scissors.

The gastric band to gastric sleeve conversion is a common bariatric surgery.

Ten years ago, the gastric band was surging in popularity as a viable answer to weight loss. Today, it’s the gastric sleeve that enjoys that distinction.

The gastric band became popular because it was the only fully adjustable and reversible bariatric technique. Patients who chose the Lap-Band had the option of choosing weight loss surgery without having to fully commit to a surgery they couldn’t take back.

Since its introduction as a weight loss surgery in 2001, the need for the gastric band to gastric sleeve conversion surgery is around 20% to 30% of all Lap-Band cases.

Some patients prefer to have the band removed. They did not experience the results they wanted following the initial surgery. Or they experienced some type of complication, leading them to throw their hands up.

Removal of the band is possible, but weight regain is likely without some other type of bariatric intervention in place.

Converting the gastric band to a gastric sleeve lets the patient continue with their post-bariatric lifestyle with a technique that offers proven results.

Why is Band-to-Sleeve Preferred Over Other Gastric Surgeries?

Bariatric surgeons prefer to convert gastric banding to sleeve gastrectomy because the sleeve technique allows for greater restriction, giving patients greater control over their weight and health.

An exception is when the patient is suffering from complications, such as poorly controlled type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, in which case the surgeon may choose to convert the band to a gastric bypass.

How Does the Gastric Band to Gastric Sleeve Conversion Work?

With gastric banding, the surgeon creates small incisions in the abdomen. These cuts function as entry points for the laparoscopic tools used during the surgery. In many cases, the surgeon can reuse the incision marks from the original surgery, which cuts down on added scarring.

The surgeon will be watching on a 3D monitor while operating the tools inside your abdomen. Using the tools, the surgeon will first access the Lap-Band. The device is most often surrounded by scar tissue. The scar tissue is cut before the tubing and banding are cut, then removed.

When the surgeon removes the banding along with the subcutaneous port, the gastric sleeve portion of the revision surgery can begin.

During a gastric sleeve, the surgeon removes around 80% of your stomach tissue. That stomach tissue is responsible for releasing the hormone ghrelin, which controls hunger. Nothing critical is lost during the surgery; the remaining portion of your stomach is the part required for digestion.

The remaining stomach tissue is converted into a sleeve that takes the shape of a banana. That sleeve is where food passes on its way through your digestive system.

With much of your stomach removed, you end up eating smaller portions. And with digesting fewer calories, you are aiding in significant weight loss.

With hunger affected, and with some saying their cravings diminished, weight loss becomes easier after gastric sleeve surgery, where it might have been near impossible before.

Are There Any Risks to Gastric Band to Sleeve Conversion Surgery?

An ecg monitor in a hospital room.

The risk of complications associated with bariatric revision surgery is slightly higher than those of a first-time surgical procedure because of scar tissue and your altered anatomy.

Your bariatric surgeon will discuss the risks of revision surgery with you during your initial consultation. It is important that you understand the risks involved before you undergo any serious procedure, such as a band-to-sleeve conversion.

How Do You Know if You’re a Good Candidate for a Band-to-Sleeve Conversion?

If you have undergone gastric banding in the past, and you have failed to lose weight, experience chronic heartburn, get nauseous and occasionally vomit, and feel chronic pain in your abdomen, you might be a viable candidate for gastric banding to gastric sleeve surgery.

Will Insurance Cover a Gastric Band to Gastric Sleeve Conversion?

The best answer to any insurance coverage question is to contact your insurance agent. You should also read the fine print on your insurance policy. More insurance companies are covering bariatric procedures of all types. The fact you are feeling pain or otherwise experiencing medical complications due to your Lap-Band may spur your insurer to cover the costs of the band-to-sleeve conversion surgery.

Without complications, your insurance company may still cover the costs, but they make the decisions on a case-by-case basis. Work with your bariatric surgeon to formulate a letter of medical necessity to encourage your health insurance company to pick up the tab for your continued weight loss treatment.

Is a Gastric Band to Gastric Sleeve Conversion Right for You?

Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki of Healthy Life Bariatrics wants to give you every opportunity to choose a healthier lifestyle. While the Lap-Band is still in use today and makes up around 10% of all bariatric procedures, surgeons prefer to perform a surgery that offers proven results. That is why the gastric band to gastric sleeve or band to gastric bypass are the most popular revisions today.

After a private consultation and thorough examination, Dr. Moeinolmolki will inform you of your options, which could include Lap-Band revision surgery.

The initial consultation is useful for getting your questions answered, such as those relating to the fees associated with bariatric surgery, whether insurance will cover some or all of the surgery, and the risks involved.

When you’re ready to start, contact or visit Healthy Life Bariatrics in Southern California. Ask about our medical tourism program for those living outside the Los Angeles, Encino, and Glendale areas. You can schedule a consultation with Dr. Moeinolmolki right now for revisional surgery by calling (310)861-7844.

Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki
February 7, 2022
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