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The expert view on Gastric Banding ( the operation Fern Britton had done to enable her to lose weight )

Michael Van den Bossche, a consultant surgeon specialising in weight-loss surgery at the Spire Southampton Hospital, gives this interview [ copyright the Daily Echo ] on gastric band surgery.

What does the operation involve?

"The operation is a very gentle and safe operation to treat morbid obesity. It is nearly always done as keyhole surgery and involves very little handling or dissection of tissues. Nothing is cut or stapled or removed or redirected. The band is placed across the very top of the stomach. There is almost no stomach above the band. We call this the small gastric pouch. With minimal dissection a pathway is made across the back of the top of the stomach, and the band is placed along that pathway, closed and fixed into that position by suturing some of the stomach wall across the front of the band.
The tubing is then connected to an access port which is placed under the skin of the abdominal wall. The band contains an inflatable balloon which can be inflated or deflated by injecting a watery solution into the access port. This is what makes the gastric band treatment an adjustable treatment.
When the balloon gets inflated the band gets tighter around the stomach, which gives the patient restriction: in other words the amount of food that can be eaten becomes quite small."

What are the risks involved?

"The risks are minimal. Lapbanding is the safest of all weight loss operations. Risks include bleeding, infection, damage to the internal organs, thrombosis, etc. They are the risks that apply to virtually every operation done inside the abdomen. The true risks of a complication during surgery is less than 0.5%."

How routine are these operations becoming?

"They are already routine in the UK although not all surgeons or hospitals have the necessary experience and expertise. At the Spire Southampton Hospital we perform approximately 150 of these lapbanding operations every year."

How commonplace do you think they will become in the future as the country continues to struggle with obesity?

"With the obesity epidemic there will be an increasing demand for these operations. It is estimated that there are 750,000 morbidly obese adults in the UK alone."

How long do the operations take?

"Done by an expert these operations take less than hour to do."

How much, on average, do the procedures cost?

"The lapband operation package at the Spire Hospital costs £5,750."

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