Very Obese Teens See Heart Gains From Weight-Loss Surgery: Study

In this age group, procedure is about health only, not appearance, expert says

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FRIDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Weight-loss surgery in extremely obese teens helps reverse heart abnormalities thought to be associated with severe obesity, a small new study finds.

The study included nine girls and one boy who underwent heart scans prior to undergoing weight-loss (bariatric) surgery at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The scans revealed heart abnormalities -- such as high blood pressure, increased left ventricular mass and left ventricular dilation -- in all the patients.

"What we found was that the cardiac structure and function in these extremely obese adolescents scheduled for bariatric surgery was much more impaired than one might have thought," study co-author John Bauer, principal investigator at Nationwide's Center for Perinatal Research, said in a hospital news release.

"In addition, more than half of the patients we looked at had significant cardiac abnormalities that would be on par with a middle-aged person with real cardiovascular disease risk in the short term," Bauer added.

When they were checked again within a year after weight-loss surgery, the patients' heart abnormalities were reversed, according to the study, which was published in the January issue of the Journal of Pediatric Surgery. Although the researchers found an association between the surgery and a reversal of heart abnormalities, they did not necessarily prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

"Many of the abnormalities that we documented during the initial baseline study showed significant improvement after the weight loss had been obtained," study co-author Dr. Marc Michalsky, surgical director of the hospital's Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition, said in the news release.

"This is a small, preliminary study that shows the significance of cardiovascular abnormalities in morbidly obese teens and that additional, more robust investigations are needed to understand how weight-loss surgery can help this patient population," he added.

Michalsky noted that weight-loss surgery in teens "is never a cosmetic procedure. These teens are very sick; they are suffering and they can truly benefit in overall health from weight-loss surgery."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about weight-loss surgery.

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