Lap Band Approved for Wider Use

By Tony Shin
|  Thursday, Feb 17, 2011  |  Updated 7:41 AM PDT
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Lap bands were originally only approved for people suffering from severe obesity but now the <a title=FDA has approved lap bands for people who are much less obese." />

Lap bands were originally only approved for people suffering from severe obesity but now the FDA has approved lap bands for people who are much less obese.

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Billboards all over the county show doctors promising miracle weight loss with lap band surgery.

"This is really for people who have been suffering from their over weight for quite awhile,"said San Diego gastric surgeon Alan Wittgrove.

He said lap band surgery works like this.  An inflatable ring is wrapped around the top of the stomach which restricts what people can eat.

"People don't necessarily get their hunger turned off, but they are restricted so they can't eat the same amounts,"Wittgrove said.

Lap bands were originally only approved for people suffering from severe obesity but now the FDA has approved lap bands for people who are much less obese.

Allergan, the company that makes lap bands, can now market to people who have a body mass index as low as 30, If they have a medical related condition like high blood pressure.

That means someone 5' 11", weighing 215 pounds, could possibly qualify for the surgery.

With an estimated 37 million people now eligible for lap band surgery, Wittgrove said it is important to pick a surgical center that specializes in weight loss.

"Patients should always know the morbidity and mortality rate of their center where they're going to have the surgery, what that risk is," Wittgrove told NBCSanDiego.

Lap band surgery can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000.

The approval could make it more likely insurance companies will pay for the surgery.

Would you consider lap band surgery? Let us know what you think. Comment below, send us your thoughts via Twitter @nbcsandiego or add your comment to our Facebook page.

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