Stomach surgery has become popular in recent years for its weight-loss benefits. With a smaller stomach, people who've had the surgery are virtually forced to diet. But the surgery is risky. Many are concerned about using the surgery on younger people, so a group of doctors got together to discuss concerns and make recommendations for performing the surgery on adolescents. Their consensus was published in a recent issue of the journal Pediatrics.
What the authors wanted to know: What adolescents are good candidates for bariatric surgery, how should they be treated, and what kinds of monitoring should they have over the long term?
What they did: The authors, a group of surgeons and pediatricians from across the country who specialize in treating overweight children, met to draw up recommendations for performing stomach surgery on adolescents.
What they recommend: The adolescents should have been unable to lose weight on an organized program after more than six months of organized trying. They should also be physically mature, able to commit to the nutrition rules after surgery, and severely obese, with a body mass index over 40 and serious obesity-related health problems (or a body mass index over 50 with less-serious problems). Patients and parents must be aware that bariatric surgery is risky. Surgeons who are going to perform bariatric surgery should have special training, and the surgery ought only to be performed after a team of doctors and other professionals have carefully considered whether a particular patient ought to have it. Stomach bypass surgery seems to be a better idea for adolescents than placing an adjustable band around the stomach. After the surgery, the adolescents should regularly visit the surgeon and other specialistssuch as psychologists and dietitianswho specialize in obesity and nutrition.
What it means to you: Stomach surgery is not for everyone; but in certain cases, it can be a way to help adolescents lose weight.
Caveats: There is very little research on stomach surgery performed on adolescents, so the authors are just making the best recommendations they can based on what they know.
Find out more: Stomach surgery from NIH: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/
Read the article: Inge, T.H. et al. "Bariatric Surgery for Severely Overweight Adolescents: Concerns and Recommendations." Pediatrics. July 2004, Vol. 114, No. 1, pp. 217-223.