Rubber band ligation is a procedure in which the hemorrhoid is tied off at its base with rubber bands, cutting off the blood flow to the hemorrhoid. This treatment is only for internal hemorrhoids.
To do this procedure, a doctor inserts a viewing instrument (anoscope) into the anus. The hemorrhoid is grasped with an instrument, and a device places a rubber band around the base of the hemorrhoid. The hemorrhoid then shrinks and dies and, in about a week, falls off.
A scar will form in place of the hemorrhoid, holding nearby veins so they don't bulge into the anal canal.
The procedure is done in a doctor's office. You will be asked whether the rubber bands feel too tight. If the bands are extremely painful, a medicine may be injected into the banded hemorrhoids to numb them.
After the procedure, you may feel pain and have a sensation of fullness in the lower abdomen. Or you may feel as if you need to have a bowel movement.
Treatment is limited to 1 to 2 hemorrhoids at a time if done in the doctor's office. Several hemorrhoids may be treated at one time if the person has general anesthesia. Additional areas may be treated at 4- to 6-week intervals.
What To Expect
People respond differently to this procedure. Some are able to return to regular activities (but avoid heavy lifting) almost immediately. Others may need 2 to 3 days of bed rest.
Pain is likely for 24 to 48 hours after rubber band ligation. You may use acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) and sit in a shallow tub of warm water (sitz bath) for 15 minutes at a time to relieve discomfort.
Bleeding may occur 7 to 10 days after surgery, when the hemorrhoid falls off. Bleeding is usually slight and stops by itself.
Doctors recommend that you take stool softeners containing fiber and drink more fluids to ensure smooth bowel movements. Straining during bowel movements can cause hemorrhoids to come back.
Why It Is Done
Rubber band ligation is the most widely used treatment for internal hemorrhoids. If you still have symptoms after three or four treatments, surgery may be considered.
Rubber band ligation cannot be used if there is not enough tissue to pull into the banding device. This procedure is almost never appropriate for fourth-degree hemorrhoids.
How Well It Works
Rubber band ligation works for about 8 out of 10 people. People who have this treatment are less likely to need another treatment compared to people who have coagulation treatments. About 1 out of 10 people may need surgery.footnote 1
Side effects are rare but include:
Severe pain that does not respond to the methods of pain relief used after this procedure. The bands may be too close to the area in the anal canal that contains pain sensors.
Bleeding from the anus.
Inability to pass urine (urinary retention).
Infection in the anal area.
What To Think About
Rubber band ligation is considered to be the most effective nonsurgical treatment for internal hemorrhoids over the long term. Because this treatment can be painful, some people might not choose it. Although a different treatment might be less painful, it may not work as well. And a less effective treatment may need to be repeated for recurring hemorrhoids.
Surgical removal of hemorrhoids (hemorrhoidectomy) may provide better long-term results than fixative procedures such as rubber band ligation. But surgery is more expensive, requires longer recovery times, and has a greater risk of complications.
Not all doctors have the experience or the equipment needed to do rubber band ligation. This may help you decide which procedure to choose. Ask your doctor which procedure he or she has done the most, how many times he or she has done the procedure, and how satisfied patients have been with the outcome.
American Gastroenterological Association (2004). American Gastroenterological Association technical review on the diagnosis and treatment of hemorrhoids. Gastroenterology, 126(5): 1463–1473.
Current as of: August 11, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Kenneth Bark, MD - General Surgery, Colon and Rectal Surgery