Anyone considering the Lap-Band as a solution to their obesity might be wondering if its safe after seeing the latest news stories involving a marketing campaign and doctors associated with it. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” provided you do some due diligence and don’t assume all doctors are properly qualified to perform the procedure.

Fortunately, there are many capable physicians who have terrific qualifications, training and experience. It just takes a little effort to ensure your doctor has the proper credentials. The truth is the Lap-Band is one of the safest procedures available for weight loss.

We’ve had patients confused and paralyzed with indecision when a negative article comes out about the marketing firm for Lap-Band in Southern California. You’ve surely seen their billboards. Fortunately, there are thousands of Lap-Band procedures being performed on a monthly basis without any problems.

Surgeons from around the country as well as patients have approached me wondering about the Beverly Hills marketing firm responsible for the negative news. They ask, “How can people die from one of the safest procedures available for weight loss?”

Well there shouldn’t be deaths from the Lap-Band, plain and simple. Follow a few guidelines and you can ensure a positive experience for yourself or your loved one. Below is a simple guide and my recommendations for any patient considering surgery for weight loss with the Lap-Band device:

1. Ask yourself, “Am I a candidate for surgery?” FDA guidelines state that you need to have a BMI greater than 30 kg/m2 with a medical illness or a BMI greater than 35 kg/m2 without any illnesses. Your insurance coverage guidelines may be different from the FDA.

2. Make your appointment with the surgeon’s actual office, not a marketing firm offering various surgeons.

3. Don’t make your decision off of the first advertisement you run across.

4. Do your research on your doctor. Start with basic Internet research. Does the doctor have the credentials? Is the doctor board certified? Are there any complaints at the Medical Board of California? Ask your friends, family and doctors if they have ever heard anything good or bad about the doctor. Is the surgeon a fellow of the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. This means they are in a clinic that belongs to Center of Excellence by Surgical Review Corp. Is the surgeon a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. This means that they are board certified in surgery.

5. Always get at least two or three consultations from different surgeons who perform the Lap-Band procedure. The more interviews, the better educated you will be to make an informed decision.

6. Ask the doctor how many Lap-Band procedures he has performed, and whether there have been any deaths or serious complications from his work.

7. Talk to other patients who have had the procedure from the doctor’s office.

8. Look up the name of doctors you’re considering on the Medical Board of California to see if there are any complaints about them; or are they in the news for problems or deaths associated with their work?

9. Get a feel if the doctor is truly interested in treating you, the patient. Don’t accept being made to feel like you’re being rushed through a medical mill.

10. Do you get to meet the doctor who will perform your procedure prior to the surgery and will that doctor examine you?

11. Ask the doctor how many adjustments per year he’d expect to make. This will give you an indication of his long-term commitment to your care. Research shows that about three adjustments per year are optimal for best results.

12. Ask if the surgeon is on the faculty or board of advisors for certifying other surgeons for bariatric procedures. (I admit this may appear a bit self-serving as I am on both, but I’ve found that quality doctors participate in such ways.)

Keep in mind that the Lap-Band procedure is the safest procedure available for weight loss. A diet regimen and follow up with adjustments of the band is crucial for good success. Make sure your surgeon is equipped to give you this important post-surgery guidance.

Our patients have a 90 percent chance of reversing their diabetes if they have weight loss surgery within seven years of starting oral medications. Diabetes may be reversed within three to six months. Sleep apnea, high blood pressure, joint problems have also been reversed with weight loss.

Follow these simple guidelines and your experience should prove to be a great one.

Dr. Carson Liu is a board certified, Santa Monica-based surgeon specializing in weight loss surgery and GERD (heartburn). He can be reached via e-mail at or (310) 208-0474, or

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