Lap-Band is Now FDA-Approved for More Americans 

By Margaret Badore -

The weight-loss procedure known as Lap-Band surgery is now an option for nearly 26 million Americans. The FDA has now lowered the minimum weight needed to qualify for the surgery, a procedure that involves placing an inflatable silicone band around the upper portion of the stomach. Gastric banding effectively reduces the size of the stomach, limiting the amount a patient can eat. The Lap-Band procedure has been touted as a better alternative to gastric bypass surgery because it is reversible.

Previously, people who had a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher could qualify for Lap-Banding, or anyone who had a BMI of 35 or higher and has an obesity-related health problem. Under these regulations, an estimated 15 to 18 million people in the United States qualified. The new regulations now approve the surgery for anyone with a BMI of 30 or higher who has a condition such as diabetes or hypertension. For otherwise healthy people, the threshold BMI remains at 40. People with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered to be obese, while a BMI between 20 and 25 is considered to be healthy.

"In order to target this therapy to patients who will benefit the most, the approved indication is limited to patients at the highest risk of obesity-related complications," FDA spokesperson Karen Riley told The New York Times. Health experts believe that the new minimum requirements will lead to a significant increase in Lap-Band surgeries, particularly as the FDA did not approve a number of new weight-loss drugs in the past year, including Qnexa.

The new rules are in accordance with recommendations made by an FDA panel in December, which voted 8 to 2 in favor of endorsing wider usage of gastric banding. Allergan, the maker of the Lap-Band, found that patients who underwent the procedure lost an average of 18 percent of their initial body weight after a year. The company has agreed to study patients involved with initial testing for another five years.

Learn more about weight loss surgery:

Updated Ideal BMI for Women

More Obese Teens Turn to Gastric Band Surgery

One Man's Bariatric Surgery Success Story