Is There a Problem with My Lap Band? Nighttime Cough

Is There a Problem with My Lap Band? Nighttime Cough

A nighttime cough can be a strong indicator that a gastric lap band needs to be replaced or in some cases repaired. A gastric lap band slip can often trigger acid reflux and heartburn, that is worse or more painful to endure at night. If you’ve undergone bariatric surgery in the past and are now experiencing acid reflux, or a nighttime cough, your gastric band may be damaged. 

A lap band can sometimes over-restrict and create partial obstructions against normal esophageal contractions. This problem causes symptoms such as food regurgitation, heartburn, acid reflux and a persistent nighttime cough. It’s important to speak to your doctor if you think there is a problem with your gastric band. Often a nighttime cough is one of the most obvious and clear signs a lap band needs to be changed.

Nighttime Cough? Signs it’s Time to Convert Your Lap Band

A nighttime cough can be a concern for anyone, but especially people who are overweight. Not only can it affect your quality of sleep and keep you up all night, but it can also cause anxiety about your overall health and wellbeing. A persistent cough can be a symptom of many health concerns and this can make some people panic. In the past couple of weeks, I have personally evaluated three patients who have had a lap band fitted and have experienced side effects such as a cough at night.

Each patient has had a history of severe GERD, nighttime cough, pneumonia and chronic bronchitis. The three patients were identified by their primary care physicians and then referred to a gastroenterologist for scopes. After a complete medical workup and months of taking medications such as Omeprazole, Carafate and Zantac, with no resolution of their symptoms, they were referred back to me. It is likely that the cause of the nighttime cough is down to a restricting lap band. 

This is a classic example of when a lap band is fitted too tightly during a weight loss operation. Unfortunately, it can be a common complaint post weight loss surgery. When this happens, a tight lap band can slip or prolapse. A prolapsed lap band can cause discomfort and bad side effects. Heartburn, acid reflux and a nighttime cough are all common complaints from patients who have had a lap band fitted too tightly. Thankfully, the side effects are not life threatening and the lap band can be fixed or replaced, after the problem has been identified by a medical professional.

Dry Air Is Not Always the Cause of a Nighttime Cough

Some people may argue that the dry Denver air might be the cause of a nighttime cough, however this might not always be the case. Yes, dry air can trigger asthma symptoms and can often cause a cough, but for patients with a lap band, a nighttime cough should not be ignored. 

When a patient has had a lap band fitted too tightly, it can cause food to become stuck above the band. It can take a long time for this food to be digested and in some cases it can’t be. When food can’t be digested, patients may suffer from food regurgitation. Vomiting food can make daily life difficult, miserable and embarrassing especially if you are among others while eating. 

Problems Eating with a Tight Gastric Lap Band 

If you have a lap band fitted and you’re experiencing difficulties when it comes to eating food, here are some recommendations to make it easy to eat. 

(i) Limit your intake of solid food that is difficult to chew and swallow 

(ii) Increase your intake of liquids such as milkshakes, juice and smoothies 

(iii) Change solid food for easy to digest food such as yoghurt, shakes or ice cream 

These types of food can be more comfortable to eat and digest and will help minimise the effects of a tight and restricting gastric band. Patients should see an improvement of acid reflux and heartburn. However, people may still find that food becomes trapped above the lap band and this can cause significant discomfort. Over time, the esophagus starts to dilate and acts as an extension of the stomach. This allows the patient to eat more and a vicious cycle results. The symptoms associated with GERD are from the food, not from stomach acid as commonly believed. 

If food sits in the end of the esophagus, it is just as irritating to the esophagus as acid from the stomach. The Lap-Band prevents acid from the stomach to reflux, and likely why the medications don’t seem to work. Next, the patient starts to wake up at night from a cough. It can become severe leading to chronic bronchitis or even pneumonia. If food is in the lower esophagus when the patient goes to bed and lies flat, the food and fluid can move up the esophagus. This leads to aspiration of food into the patient’s airways, causing the cough. The food or fluid can also lead to bronchitis and pneumonia. Many patients with this persistent problem learn to sleep in a chair to prevent the cough.

Robotic Lap Band Revision in Denver, CO

The bottom line is that if you have a lap band and you develop symptoms of GERD or a nighttime cough, you should be evaluated by your bariatric surgeon. You simply may need an unfill of your gastric band which will resolve your reflux symptoms and cough immediately. You should also get an upper GI to help identify any problem. If your band is too tight and no other problem is detected, take some time off with the unfill, then restart the fills. 

If, however, the lap band has a slip or prolapse, then it may need to be removed. You can also choose to have the band removed and convert to another weight-loss operation such as a gastric sleeve or gastric bypass. On the other hand, if you have unexplained weight loss or weight regain, excessive vomiting or a low-grade infection with abdominal pain, you may be suffering from lap band erosion. 

At the Colorado Bariatric Surgery Institute, we have expertise and experience in performing these procedures. We also do our bariatric procedures robotically, providing state-of-the-art technology which has definite benefits. Please give us a call (303-861-4505) if you have any of these symptoms as serious medical problems can occur if they are not treated properly.

Read more about the life changing benefits of bariatric surgery. 

Explore how medical robots are transforming weight loss surgery in the US.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. We appreciate your time and would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have in relation to bariatric surgery. If you would like to book a weight loss consultation with one of our bariatric experts, call 303-861-4505 today. Alternatively, you can visit our website for more information,


Tom Brown, MD

Colorado Bariatric Surgery Institute

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