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Study Supports Broader Access to Lap-Band Surgery

But not everyone agrees it’s time to recommend the procedure to those who aren’t extremely obese.

The Lap-Band weight-loss procedure should not be restricted only to patients who are very severely obese, a new study suggests.

Still, some experts disagreed, saying further research will be needed before the procedure is used in a wider range of patients.

The Lap-Band is a strategy in which an adjustable band is placed around the upper part of the stomach in order to create a pouch. The newly-created pouch restricts how much food a patient can eat at one time and helps reduce appetite.

In 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Lap-Band for use in patients who are very severely obese (a body-mass index of 40 or higher) and for patients who are severely obese (BMI of 35 to 39.9) with an obesity-related condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

BMI is a measurement of body fat based on a ratio of weight to height. Obesity is typically defined as a BMI of 30 or above.

Since the 2001 approval of the device, the FDA has expanded the Lap-Band’s approval for use in obese patients with a BMI of 30 to 39.9 who have at least one obesity-related condition (for example, diabetes or high cholesterol levels).

Allergan, the device’s maker, funded the new study. In the study, researchers performed the Lap-Band procedure on 149 patients who had a BMI of 35 to 39.9 and did not have an obesity-related condition or who had a BMI of 30 to 34.9 (moderately obese) with at least one obesity-related condition.

One year after undergoing the procedure, nearly 85 percent of the patients had lost at least 30 percent of their excess body weight, with an average excess weight loss of 65 percent. About 66 percent of the patients were no longer obese.

Obesity-related conditions improved for many of the patients, including 64 percent of those with high cholesterol, 59 percent of those with high blood pressure and 85 percent of those with diabetes. Most side effects of the procedure were mild to moderate and resolved within a month.

The patients’ results a year after the procedure were maintained or improved at two years, according to the study, which was published online May 2 in the journal Obesity.