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FDA approves wider use of Lap-Band surgery

February 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The stomach-shrinking Lap-Band device could soon be available to millions of more U.S. patients.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the OK for an Irvine manufacturer to widen its marketing of the band.

This means as many as 26 million Americans could now qualify for Lap-Band surgery, so long as they also suffer from a weight-related illness like diabetes.

This will open the door for those who were obese, but not obese enough to receive the gastric band. But doctors say this doesn't mean that people should have unrealistic expectations or expect quick fixes.

The FDA approved Wednesday the expanded use of the Lap-Band weight loss system for adults who are less obese than those currently using the device.

The gastric band procedure was once reserved for patients with a body mass index above 40. Now patients with a body mass index between 30 and 40 and one weight-related condition qualify.

"The typical patient that I see is one who has tried and failed conservative weight-loss measures, that have tried for years," said Dr. Jeremy Korman, the director of bariatrics at Marina Del Rey Hospital.

Korman says many of his patients have struggled with obesity but were not heavy enough to receive the Lap-Band procedure. Now that has all changed.

"Ultimately, this decision was really a cost-benefit analysis. Cost in risk, versus the benefit of improvement in health. That really was what made the decision for the FDA," said Korman.

The adjustable gastric band has been used since 2001. A ring is placed over the top of the stomach and inflated to restrict the amount of food that can pass through the stomach.

Korman says even with the new parameters, patients also have previously attempted other weight-loss strategies like diet and exercise. And he says it does not guarantee success. It is an option, he says, and like all aggressive surgeries, it should not be taken lightly.

"It's not a lunchtime procedure. It has to be taken seriously," said Korman.

Irvine-based Allergan is the company that makes Lap-Band.

About 60,000 people have the band implanted.

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