There are many terms that have become familiar to the lap band population because they are commonly used among doctors and patients. One popular term is “LapBand” which stands for Laparoscopic Gastric Banding. The term “LapBand Erosion” also became very popular among the banded patients as lap band message boards increased in popularity. The patients that already had the LapBand were concerned as“erosion” was often connected to topics such as de-banding or surgical removal of the band. However, the term actually means that the stomach has developed a penetrating ulcer and has eroded (worn away) towards the balloon of the band.
How does Stomach Erosion happen in LapBand Patients?
Intragastric band erosions have been reported at rates that vary from 3 to 10% depending on the operatory technique or surgeon´s experience, the device used and the patient’s eating behavior. There are several different and controversial theories for the cause of erosion:
- The LapBand around the stomach gradually erodes into the stomach wall over time, and goes into the gastric lumen, as we have seen with other intrabdominal devices.
- The stomach damage done during the LapBand procedure debilitates the layers of the stomach wall, resulting in erosion at a later time.
- The sutures were placed too deep and trespassed all the wall layers of the stomach, causing micro perforations that generate leaking, infection and later erosion.
- Events that happens inside the stomach, such as frequent vomiting, medications, ingestion of irritants as spicy or hot food, alcohol, etc. as well as a large adjustment to the band system, will produce an ulcer that penetrates toward the balloon of the band.
I believe the last theory is the most consistent and also the most frequently seen in the vast majority of patients with erosion. Other theories, such as a crease or a fold in the balloon, which may harm and erode the stomach lining, were not scientifically proven. We have seen erosion with all kinds of LapBands and with all kinds of balloons and find no correlation with the fold theory.
Once the erosion-ulcer is established it is not possible to cure the ulcer, not even by removing all the fluid in the band. Therefore the need to remove the band itself becomes imperative. I recommend the band be removed AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, not because this is an emergency in any way, but because there is a risk of increasing the ulcer’s size. Removing the Lapband can help to decrease the risk of complications such as infection traveling along the hose to the port and to the skin, or stomach bleeding.
How Can LapBand Erosion be Prevented?
There are several ways to prevent erosion. The first way that I personally recommend is to avoid “large fills” to the LapBand, in order to prevent vomiting or gastric reflux. The second way that I recommend is to protect the stomach with anti-acids frequently, especially at bed time. The third recommendation is to avoid alcohol, hot or spicy food, vinegar, soy sauce, and coffee. Talk with your Doctor about the medications you are actually taking and ask about exchanging the ones that can hurt your stomach for others with the same effect but less stomach irriation.