REALIZE® Band Surgery
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved The REALIZE® Band in September of 2007. This brand of gastric banding surgery was developed in Sweden in 1985 and was formerly known as the Swedish Adjustable Gastric Band (SAGB). The bariatric surgery procedure has been performed outside of the United States since 1986, and 90,000 bands were sold during the first 20 years that the procedure was on the market. Similar to the LAP-BAND®, the REALIZE® Band system divides the stomach into a smaller upper pouch and a lower stomach. Today, the procedure is gaining popularity in the United States due to its unique benefits.
Before you undergo surgery, you must meet with a qualified bariatric surgeon to ensure that you are an appropriate candidate for treatment. Candidates for treatment should have a BMI index of 40 or above, or a BMI of 35 or above paired with an obesity-related medical condition. Patients should also quit smoking before surgery, and attend psychological, diet, and fitness counseling to prepare for surgery.
- Patients are put under general anesthesia, and several small incisions are made in the upper abdomen.
- A small camera is placed through the incisions to guide the surgeon during the operation.
- The REALIZE® Band, which is made of durable and malleable silicone material, is positioned around the upper part of the stomach and then secured into place using the band's locking mechanism. This creates a smaller stomach pouch and narrower channel to the lower portion of the stomach.
- A tube that is attached to the REALIZE® Band is then connected to the injection port; the port is used to change the tightness of the band after surgery. To connect the port, an incision is made in the upper abdomen, the tube is pulled through the incision so the surgeon can attach it to the port using the Realize® Band system's locking connector. The tube and port are then placed just beneath the skin.
Adjusting the Band
The band is not filled immediately after surgery. This gives the stomach time to heal after surgery. Four to six weeks after surgery, you will return to your surgeon's office for adjustment of the band. During the appointment, your surgeon will inject a saline solution into the port to tighten the band and reduce the size of the stomach. This will further limit the amount of food that you can consume in one sitting. Most REALIZE® Band patients visit their surgeons for four band adjustments during the first year after surgery, and two adjustments the second and third year after surgery.
Most REALIZE® Band patients take a week or two off of work and other obligations after surgery. During this time, patients should rest, maintain a liquid diet, and limit physical activity. Medication should be taken as prescribed to help manage pain.
Patients will need to change their eating habits after surgery. The smaller stomach pouch limits the amount of food consumed during meals. Typically about a half of a cup of food is all that it would take to create the sensation of being full. Through this limited intake of food, the gastric banding patient will lose weight at a safe, natural rate: typically one to two pounds per week.
For the full benefits of the REALIZE® Band, patients are encouraged to eat several smaller meals during the day, instead of eating larger meals that could negate the effects of the gastric band. Patients also should eat meals that are low in fat, cholesterol, sugar, and overall calories.
Gastric banding surgery is a serious operation that entails some risks and side effects. These include:
- Stomach and shoulder pain
- Allergic reaction to anesthesia
- Band erosion, slippage, or leakage
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Stomach pouch enlargement
- Stomach blockage
- Pulmonary embolism
- Heart attack
The REALIZE® Band system has numerous benefits. The flexible, silicone band is placed using laparoscopic techniques, allowing for faster recovery. Also, if for some reason the surgery needs to be undone, the band is removable. Finally, the REALIZE® Band includes an online tool for patients to use to track their weight loss progress.
REALIZE® Band surgery typically costs about $17,000 to $25,000. Your health insurance policy may cover all or a portion of the cost of the procedure. Review our bariatric surgery insurance page to find out how to apply for insurance coverage. If patients have to pay for the cost of treatment out of pocket, low interest financing plans are available to those who qualify.
REALIZE® Band vs. LAP-BAND®
According to the manufacturers of the REALIZE® Band, the system has some distinct advantages over the LAP-BAND®:
- The REALIZE® Band is wider than the LAP-BAND®, a design detail that is intended to reduce the band's risk of slipping.
- The REALIZE® Band has a lower leak rate
- The REALIZE® Band offers a larger range of adjustment
- The REALIZE® Band injection port is smaller and placed without sutures, reducing pain and resulting in the need for less operating time
Find a Bariatric Surgeon
Of course, as with all surgeries, there are some risks associated with the REALIZE® Band. Patients can learn more about the gastric band, its risks, and its benefits, by speaking with a weight loss surgeon. Find a gastric banding surgeon in your area to find out if you are a good candidate for bariatric surgery.