Family 'Bands' Together to Lose Weight

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Without insurance coverage, laparoscopic banding surgery costs around $15,000 to $25,000, said Dr. Mitchell Roslin, a surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Insurance coverage varies from company to company, he said. Medicare, for example, covers the surgery if a person has a body mass index of 35 or higher -- indicating severe obesity -- along with a medical condition that's related to their obesity. Surgery may also be covered when a person's BMI is greater than 40, considered morbid obesity.

In many cases, a person must have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight through diet and exercise for a certain amount of time before being approved for surgery by an insurance company. Being approved, however, is never a guarantee.

Weight loss after gastric banding tends to be more gradual. Other procedures are more invasive and involve anatomical alterations of the stomach or small intestine.

"There is a more intensive reduction in the capacity to eat with other surgeries, so weight loss is faster, but in the end, they reach the same weight loss," said Ren-Fielding.

Roslin places less faith in bands than the other doctors, saying that bands frequently need to be readjusted after their insertion because they are too tight. If the band is too tight, it can cause problems swallowing, which can lead to changes in the size of the esophagus.

"They also leave a lot of scar tissue and it's hard to do other procedures if the band is not successful with weight loss," he said.

While they disagree on the benefits of gastric banding, Ren-Fielding, Roslin and Liu all say weight loss surgery, while not for everyone, can help in ways that go beyond shedding the pounds.

"Weight loss surgery is no joke, but once you start with diabetes and metabolic syndrome, then you have to weigh the odds of the unknown risk of the progression of other diseases," Roslin said.

For Frank Scafuri, his band-induced weight loss led to his hypertension and diabetes being resolved.

In addition to Ren-Fielding -- his surgeon -- he said he has his family to thank as well.

"We'll support each other, text each other, cook healthy for each other and keep each other motivated," he said. "We're still eating partners, but we eat a lot less now."

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