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What do I do if food gets stuck in my lap-band?

March 23rd, 2012 - Posted by Jeremy Korman, MD to Weight Loss

In general, gastric band surgery is safe, with few complications. However, risks do exist, just like they do with any surgical procedure. Some risks are inherent to all surgery, while some are specific to the gastric band. One of these risks is obstruction of the stoma.

Stoma Obstruction

“Stoma” comes from the Greek word for “opening.” If you hear weight-loss surgery professionals using this word, they mean the narrow opening created when the lap-band cinches around the upper part of the stomach. Only a little food can get through the stoma at a time. That allows food to stay in the upper stomach “pouch” for longer, leading to a lasting feeling of satiety from a small meal.

However, sometimes food can become stuck in this small opening.  This can occur if the patient eats the wrong type of food, eats too quickly or does not chew thoroughly, or if the lap-band is too tight. Other factors such as stress or even the time of day (bands tend to feel tighter in the morning) can also affect how easily food moves through the stoma. This can cause discomfort, as well as potentially more serious complications.

Some symptoms of stoma obstruction can include:

  • Nausea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Spasms of the esophagus

If these symptoms become intolerable or go on for too long, it may indicate that medical attention is required. However, it is not uncommon for food to get temporarily stuck in the stoma.  These temporary obstructions may be uncomfortable, but generally clear up on their own and tend not to require medical attention.

However, if the pain is severe or if it lasts for longer than an hour, let the bariatric center know. It may simply be that the band is too tight and needs to be deflated a little bit. The doctor will determine whether there is a more serious problem or if the pain has a routine cause. As each case is different and the causes can vary, you should consult a doctor when you judge that there is something seriously wrong.

If you have further questions on lap-band complications, or would like to schedule an appointment with our office staff, please send us an e-mail or call us at (800) 491-1977.

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