Stomach stapling is a surgical procedure that can help you lose weight when diet, exercise, and medication don’t work. It’s one of the oldest types of bariatric (weight loss) surgery.
Although it was a popular procedure 20 years ago, it’s almost never done today. It’s been replaced by more advanced and effective bariatric procedures. These newer types of bariatric surgery work better and have fewer complications.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what stomach stapling entails, as well as the procedures that have replaced it.
Stomach stapling is sometimes called vertical banded gastroplasty (VBG). A gastroplasty is a surgical procedure that reduces the size of your stomach.
During stomach stapling surgery, the surgeon creates a small stomach pouch and separates it from the rest of your stomach using surgical staples.
An opening about the size of a dime is left between the two stomach areas so food can move out of the pouch into the larger stomach area.
In the original stomach stapling procedure, only staples were used to create the pouch. VBG was developed a little later.
With VBG, a band is used to separate the stomach pouch from the rest of your stomach, in addition to staples. This makes the separation stronger and a little more permanent.
Because your new stomach pouch can only hold 1 to 2 ounces of food, you get full quickly and eat less than you normally would. As a result, you take in fewer calories. This in turn leads to weight loss.
Since your pouch is created using only staples without removing any of your stomach, stomach stapling can be reversed by taking the staples out.
With stomach stapling, the average weight loss one year after the procedure is about
In comparison, the weight loss from newer bariatric procedures can be
Once you’ve lost the weight after stomach stapling surgery, you may find it hard to keep the weight off. That’s because your stomach pouch and its opening can get bigger over time, especially if you overeat.
This means you can eat more before feeling full, which can lead to weight gain.
Because stomach stapling is less effective and can cause serious complications, it’s been replaced by safer, more effective procedures.
Two of the most commonly performed bariatric procedures today are gastric sleeve and gastric bypass surgery.
About gastric sleeve surgery
Like stomach stapling, gastric sleeve surgery is a restrictive bariatric procedure. This means it works by restricting how much you can eat at one time. By taking in fewer calories, you lose weight.
During gastric sleeve surgery, the surgeon removes most of your stomach and creates a gastric pouch by sewing the edges of the remaining stomach together.
This small banana-shaped stomach pouch is called a “sleeve.” It holds a limited amount of food, so you get full faster and, as a result, eat less and lose weight.
Unlike stomach stapling, gastric sleeve surgery is permanent and can’t be changed.
About gastric bypass surgery
Gastric bypass surgery is a two-step procedure that causes weight loss in two ways.
The first step involves gastric sleeve surgery, as described above.
For the second step, your digestive tract is diverted so it bypasses part of your small intestine where absorption of calories and nutrients occurs.
As a result, when food travels through your digestive tract, fewer calories are absorbed. This also leads to weight loss and is known as weight loss through malabsorption.
Because weight loss occurs in two ways, people who have gastric bypass surgery usually lose more weight compared to gastric sleeve or stomach stapling surgery. The weight loss also tends to occur faster.
Gastric bypass is a permanent procedure that can’t be reversed.
Most bariatric surgeries today are minimally invasive procedures that are performed laparoscopically.
Instead of the large incision needed for open surgery, you’ll only need a few small incisions in your abdomen. This speeds up your recovery.
After stomach stapling surgery, patients are usually in the hospital for 1 to 3 days. Once at home, you’re encouraged to rest and to limit daily activities. It may take between 1 to 3 weeks to return to work.
About 1 month after surgery, you can slowly begin an exercise program to help increase weight loss.
Most people who have stomach stapling surgery feel tired and don’t have much energy the first 2 weeks after the surgery. This is mostly due to the low calorie liquid diet that’s needed after the surgery. This gets better once soft foods are introduced to the diet.
It takes about 6 weeks to fully recover from stomach stapling surgery and to get back to a normal daily routine. By then, most patients have already lost a noticeable amount of weight.
Doctors typically recommend starting a healthy, low calorie diet several months before stomach stapling surgery. This may make it easier to adjust to a healthy diet that needs to be maintained after the surgery.
Another reason to change to a healthier diet before surgery is that it helps with weight loss. The less excess weight you have, the lower the risk of complications during and after the surgery.
After the surgery, you’ll slowly add more foods to your diet until you’re eating regular healthy food. It typically proceeds in the following way:
- The day of surgery. You can take sips of water after the anesthesia has worn off.
- The day after surgery. You can have small amounts of clear liquids, such as clear chicken broth, white grape juice, and apple juice.
- Days 2 to 14. You can have thicker liquids such as pudding, yogurt, milk, and protein shakes.
- For the next 3 to 5 weeks. Your diet will consist of puréed food, slowly progressing to soft foods.
- 5 weeks after surgery. You can start adding small amounts of regular food to your diet.
Having surgery of any kind puts you at risk for complications, including:
- bleeding (hemorrhage)
- blood clot in your leg veins (deep vein thrombosis)
- blood clot in your lung (pulmonary embolism)
- infection of your incision
- irregular heartbeat
People who have bariatric surgery are at higher risk for these complications because of their excess weight and associated conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
There are some complications that are specific to stomach stapling surgery.
The most common side effect of stomach stapling is heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). When it’s severe, some of the staples may need to be removed to relieve this condition.
Other side effects and complications related to stomach stapling include:
- fluid leakage at the staple line
- disruption of the staple line
- nutritional deficiencies
- narrowing or closing of the connection between the two stomach parts (stenosis)
- expansion of the stomach pouch, which increases the amount of food it can hold
Bariatric surgery is expensive. Procedures similar to stomach stapling cost around $15,000. This is unaffordable for many people unless their medical insurance covers it.
Coverage varies by insurance company, but some types of bariatric surgery may be covered based on your body mass index (BMI). The criteria for insurance coverage typically involves having:
- a BMI over 40 (morbid obesity)
- a BMI over 35 with at least one obesity-related condition, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia), obstructive sleep apnea, or fatty liver disease
- an inability to lose weight with diet, exercise, or medication
If your BMI is less than 35, it’s very unlikely your insurance will cover any type of bariatric surgery.
Be sure to check the details of your insurance policy to determine if stomach stapling is covered. Because it’s an obsolete procedure, stomach stapling is less likely to be covered than more current procedures, such as gastric bypass and gastric sleeve surgery.
According to the Centers of Medicare & Medicare Services, Medicare and Medicaid will cover more current types of bariatric surgery if you meet the conditions described above.
Stomach stapling is a type of bariatric surgery. During this type of weight loss surgery, the surgeon creates a small pouch in your stomach using staples.
It was once very popular, but stomach stapling is hardly ever done today. It’s been replaced by more advanced bariatric procedures that are more effective and have fewer side effects and complications.
Gastric sleeve surgery and gastric bypass are now preferred over stomach stapling. Like stomach stapling, they require changes to your diet and may be covered by insurance, if you meet certain criteria.