Common questions (with my answers) about the gastric banding surgery

by Christine on July 16th, 2010

filed under Gastric Banding Surgery, General Information

Gastric BandThese questions are based on keyword search terms in Google that directed visitors to my site. I hope these answers clarify some questions that you, my precious readers have about the procedure. If you ever have any questions about the surgery, you can always email me at: Sherazade96(at)hotmail(dot)com.

What are common gastric banding problems?

Great question! There are several complications that arise from the surgery itself as well as the band and port that are placed inside of you.  The most common complications, according to WebMD, are nausea and vomiting. These can be caused by the tightness of the band.  Minor surgical complications  (which occur less than 10% of the time) include problems with the adjustment device, wound infections, and minor bleeding. For instance, if the band is too tight or you “overeat” your band, you can cause the band to erode through your stomach lining.

Other possible risks include:

  • Band leakage
  • Acid reflux and/or vomiting
  • Erosion of the band into the stomach
  • Enlargement of the stomach pouch
  • Band slippage
  • Dehydration
  • No weight loss and/or weight regain
  • Blockage of the stomach outlet
  • Gas and bloating
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Ulceration
  • Gastritis

So what about me? What have been my complications?  I do have regular acid reflux (never had it prior to surgery) that I treat with a Nexium pill every three or four days, as needed.  I also had stomach pain at one point, so I went to the hospital and was told that I had three stomach ulcers. I suspect these were caused my an overly stressful work situation, but they could have been caused by the gastric band.  I also suffer from mild-but-annoying constipation (read more by clicking here).  Finally, I have a problem with a protruding port. This is most likely caused by my port coming detached from my abdominal muscles, but I haven’t seen my surgeon to verify this. (Click here to read more about port problems)

Risk of death due to this surgery is about 1 in 2,000 patients.

Does the gastric band hurt?

I guess the answer to this is “yes and no.”  Immediately following surgery, I had pain and discomfort. My neck/back/shoulders hurt like a mofo because of the gas they use to inflate your stomach during surgery. This gas escapes the body by creeping upwards to the shoulder area.  I also had pain where they attached the port to my abdominal muscles. In both cases, the pain subsided less than a week after surgery.

When I received fills, it did not hurt. An inflated band did not hurt me.

Since that time, my gastric band does not hurt and should not hurt its patients. I’ve lost a substantial amount of weight, and because my port is protruding (really, I need to see my doctor about that) I sometimes lean on it funny, so it aches. But this is abnormal. I do not believe that the gastric band should hurt after you have healed from surgery.

My gastric band is still sore after a year?

Like I said above, it may be somewhat common for the port site to rub against something and get a little tender. And, of course, after your fills you should be a little swollen in the band/stomach area. Otherwise, But if your band hurts, much less a whole year after surgery, this is not normal! It indicates to me that you might be experiencing band erosion or an infection or something. Go see your doctor.

What are potential problems with the port after gastric banding?

The three most common problems specifically associated with the port are: port displacements, port rupture, and port infection.  Port displacement is where the port comes detached from the abdominal muscles, so it ends up kind of floating around. (This is currently what I am experiencing.)  Port rupture is where the seal on the port is not tight, and therefore leaks liquid (saline) into the body.  Tearing of the silicone rubber can be a manufacturing problem or can be caused the injection needle wiggling it loose.  Port infection usually presents itself early after band placement, according to a 2008 study.

Why can’t you eat celery with gastric banding?

Hmmm, curious question, but I like it! I’m going to guess that it is caused by the “shredded” nature of the celery stalk. You know how you can “shred” the celery like you can with string cheese? I’m going to guess that the celery shreds get wrapped up and caught in the small stomach opening, exactly the same way that long hair can get caught in a shower drain.  I recommend chopping the celery up horizontally into chunks (“against the grain”) like you would see it in a crock of soup. Then you should be fine.

What happens if you spit up your food after having gastric banding?

This is totally common!  When you eat something that is too chunky, you don’t chew well enough, or perhaps is too doughy and clumps up in your band, then that food will sit on top of your stomach opening and have nowhere to go. Then, your body starts producing saliva (often called “sliming”) in order to try to break that food down with enzymes.  If you’re stuck really good, then that saliva will just build up. Then BOOM! You need to go puke your food up. This is really common, so get used to it. Learn to chew really, really well.

Is it common to be gassy with the gastric band?

This is one of the common side-effects of the gastric band.  My personal experience is this: for about 4 months following the surgery, holy smokes I was gassy! I farted maybe 100 times a day. It was pretty much silent and not-smelly, but it happened all the freaking time.  Eventually as my stomach started getting used to this new device gripping it, my body stopped producing so much gas. Nowadays, I’m back to a “normal” gassy state, as I was prior to surgery.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people experience gas forevermore. I appear to be a “forevermore” person with my acid reflux; I assume gas would be a similar issue.

Should I be able to feel the port inside the stomach after having gastric banding surgery?

Well, the port isn’t inside the stomach.  The band is around the stomach and no, you shouldn’t be able to feel that through your skin! You’ll certainly notice the band as you start to get it tightened though!  But perhaps you mean the port.  For most people, the port is either located near your belly button or it is placed just under your sternum/breastbone. Can you feel the port through the skin? Initially, probably not. Most people have a substantial amount of fat covering the port, so it shouldn’t be really noticeable unless you press hard. As you lose weight, it will become more and more noticeable! This is a good thing: it means you’re losing weight!  Eventually, YES, you will certainly be able to feel it and, perhaps, even see it through the skin.

Is loss of appetite with the gastric band common?

Yes and no.  I mean, the gastric band is supposed to reduce the amount that you eat, but it does not necessarily work like a diet pill in actually suppressing your appetite.  So, theoretically your appetite should remain intact.  However, many people may notice that at certain points—especially immediately following a fill—that your appetite gets killed. I think this is normal, and eventually you’ll get hungry again. If loss of appetite becomes an ongoing problem, you may want to talk to your doctor about it. It could mean that your band is too tight.

Currently, I eat about 5 or 6 small meals per day. I eat to the point of fullness, then I stop. However, because I’m eating very few calories, I get hungry again 1-2 hours later. So I eat again. And so on. I DO feel hunger. Frequently.  I hope that explanation helps a bit!

If the doctor okays a gastric band how long does it take to have surgery?

That totally depends on your doctor and how long his/her waiting list is, and how long it takes for you to get approval from your insurance company. This could potentially be a very long process. For me, it probably took about 4 months after my doc okayed me for surgery.  For instance:

  1. First I met with my doctor to get evaluated and given a basic health physical. Let’s say that was at the end of October.
  2. My doctor then okayed me for surgery, pending the okay of several  people.  Let’s say this was November 1st.
  3. For the whole month of November I had a series of doctor’s appointments: a psychological visit, pre-hospital testing involving x-rays, a vile milkshake of barium to drink with more x-rays, and respiratory tests.  I also had to get a letter of approval from my GP.
  4. January I started my Medifast diet.  I had 8 weeks to lose 10% of my total body weight. I weighed 225 so I had 22 pounds to lose.
  5. Mid-February I had more testing to do at the hospital to clear me for surgery.
  6. I had my surgery at the end of February.

Why can’t I access the port to my gastric band?

The only reason that I can think of is that the port site has moved. The reason why it moved could be that it has dislocated itself from your abdominal muscle.  Also, it could be that the rubber silicone area of the port (where the needle is inserted) may have malfunctioned. Either way, this is not good, not common, and you should ask your doctor what you need to do to fix it. I’m not a surgeon, but I’m going to guess that you’ll need to have surgery to replace the port or to get it re-attached properly.

Gastric band port came through my skin…what now?

Yowch!! But, I’m facing a similar threat because of my port site! Go see the doctor IMMEDIATELY! An open wound like that can easily get infected. See a doctor now! Go! Shoo!

Interesting in learning more about the procedure? Have questions that aren’t answered? Then check out these pages:

Here are some resources about difficulties I’ve personally had with the band:

I know that there are other gastric banders reading this blog post. Can you offer any personal insights into the questions posed above?

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  • freckleonthenose

    Very interesting and informative – thank you for sharing!

  • freckleonthenose

    Very interesting and informative – thank you for sharing!

  • Adam, The Healthy Boy

    Hey Christine! Great blog! Just read your article and looked at pics of your port. That is crazy! I had no idea that was involved with the gastric band. Great information on here and keep up the great posts!

    • Christine

      Thanks Adam, and thanks for stopping by!

  • Adam, The Healthy Boy

    Hey Christine! Great blog! Just read your article and looked at pics of your port. That is crazy! I had no idea that was involved with the gastric band. Great information on here and keep up the great posts!

    • Christine

      Thanks Adam, and thanks for stopping by!

  • Dee

    Hi Christine! Stumbled across your blog as I was researching my second port displacement … it’s soooo much fun living with a funky displaced port isn’t it?! Ah, the trials and tribulations of the band. Enjoying reading your blog! Miss Dee

    • Christine

      DEE! I’m very interested to hear about your problems with your port. What is happening? What has your doctor said about resolving the problem? I’m looking for information to use as ammo when I visit my doctor….

  • Dee

    Hi Christine! Stumbled across your blog as I was researching my second port displacement … it’s soooo much fun living with a funky displaced port isn’t it?! Ah, the trials and tribulations of the band. Enjoying reading your blog! Miss Dee

    • Christine

      DEE! I’m very interested to hear about your problems with your port. What is happening? What has your doctor said about resolving the problem? I’m looking for information to use as ammo when I visit my doctor….

  • eymoo

    Dear All,

    I have severe breastbone pain and it’s been 5 years since i did the gastric band – I lost the weight after I did the surgery, but then after my pregnancies and multiple deliveries, every time I try to adjust the band to lose the weight, I keep having this horrible under the breastbone pain.

    My doctor tells me it could be due to reflux acid which I am not convinced of because I have taken so many strong medication but it didn’t work. I do have severe hernia though – could this be the problem.

    My doctor recommends I take the band out and go for bypass surgery. I am not sure I am through with the band yet- I am sure I can make it work again- Please advise!



  • Carrie Ann

    Hi, im having a problem with my band. I know its common but i get alot of wind when eating causing me to burp alot. I have made sure to chew, eat slowly etc but it doesnt prevent it. When i eat it gets quite bad and in order to burp my stomach convulses and i can feel the food pop through the restriction, rendering the point of it useless. If i dont do this i end up throwing up. I cant win. I dont want to pop the food through as it means i eat more. But throwing up hurts alot. Any ideas? Ive spoken to my nurse about it and she has said its a bad thing im doing and i must stop of weight loss wont occur, but ive tried so hard not to and i end up bring it up. It feels like i have food lodged in my chest. Can anyone suggest anything? 


    • Tamara

      Hi Carrie, I have exact same thing. The first year I was great, then it got tightened and things have never been the same since. I’ve lost little weight (a stone) and I find if I go more than 3/4 hrs without food, I have trouble digesting food. When I’m out with friends i feel embarrassed and just have soft food or soup as I don’t want to burp, but I need to burp to be comfortable or like you I need to be sick which is very painful and makes me feel drained.

  • Sineado

    HI! I am 2 years into my surgery and this past week i am suddenly having problems eating and drinking. It really hurts! it feels like someone is standing on my chest and stomach. I don’t know if it is a blockage or what. I have moved abroad since my surgery and am not finding the doctors in Ontario, Canada very helpful

  • jon

    why do I get Heartburn after my Vacation Overseas.

  • Mar

    same here.i get Acid Reflux and Pain .after My vacation in the Philippines…

  • Rosmac

    My band suddenly stopped working last Thursday after being perfect for 3 years. I felt a kind of pop and Since then (5 days) I’ve become swollen all over especially my abdomen and legs I’m also weighing over a stone heavier and passing a lot of urine and have a slight headache. I’m seeing my surgeon on Monday next but I am worried what is happening to me. has anyone else experienced this?

    • Rose McCloskey

      Hi Rosemac. Could you let me know what happened to you. I know this was 4 years ago but the same thing has just happened to me. I have my band nearly 10 years. Thanks Rose

  • joyta

    As a post gastric bypass patient I had problems with constipation for the first time in my life. My doctor recommended The Lady Soma Fiber Cleanse & after 3 days of taking the capsules there was no strain, no stress. Every morning (without fail) I would have a nice bowel movement. It’s been 3 months since that experience, & I’ve gotten my mother using Lady Soma too,

  • maggie

    I had my band fitted 8 yrs ago and my weight has been steady. I have suffered severe acid reflux and have to take high dose of lansoprozole leaving me with a loss of calcium and low bone density. I now suffer chronic neck and shoulder pain. Does anyone suffer the neck and shoulder pain with a lap band.

    • joanne

      I suffer front neck pain 9 yrs. after my lap band surgery. I stour pain in the front of your neck ?

  • Rachel Cameron

    Hi I had the band done on the 30th may I get a lot of pain from my port if I lay on my side or on my front is this normal