FDA lowers weight requirement for lap-band surgery

FDA lowers weight requirement for lap-band surgery

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by Erika Edwards / NBC News Channel

Erika Edwards / NBC News Channel

Posted on February 17, 2011 at 5:50 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Lap-band surgery has been a weight loss treatment option since 2001 for an exclusive group: the severely obese.

A silicone ring placed around the upper part of the stomach makes patients feel full more quickly and can lead to significant weight loss.

Now, a new FDA approval expands who qualifies for the procedure. Adults who have a body mass index of 30, down from 35, can now undergo surgery. They must also have a health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Otherwise healthy adults can have the procedure done if their BMI is over 40.

Doctors warn weight loss surgery isn't an easy way out. Patients must commit to lifestyle changes like regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Insurance will cover the procedure, but there are several hurdles.

"The major requirements include a psychological evaluation, a nutritional evaluation, a medical necessity letter from the patient's physician stating that they are a good candidate for weight loss surgery," said bariatric surgeon Dr. Leena Khaitan.

For the millions of Americans who, until now, didn't have a surgical option, it could be worth the extra work.

The new weight requirements do not apply to other weight loss surgeries like gastric bypass.

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