Teenagers and Gastric Bypass Procedures

Hospitals, throughout the country, are now considering Bariatric surgery of GBP for teenagers, when it is seen as the only way to help them lose weight.

Severely obese adults have been turning to Bariatric surgery for over a decade. When the traditional weight loss plan of diet and exercise doesn’t work, Bariatric surgery is often the only way to reverse the life-changing medical complications of obesity. However, most surgeons have been reluctant to offer this surgery to teenagers.

Teenagers with morbid obesity, some who weigh 500 or even 600 pounds, are faced with medical complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure, joint problems and high cholesterol. Their social development and self-image are also profoundly affected by their obesity, as many of them are unable to attend school or participate in many of the normal activities of teenagers.

Initially, the medical community was opposed to the idea of Bariatric surgery in teenagers; however, they began to realize that for many of them this might be the only way to reverse these serious medical problems.

As a result, a task force was created by the American Pediatric Surgical Association. This group developed recommendations about who should be a candidate for this surgery.

Surgery is only done if everything else has failed. In order to be considered, a patient must have failed to lose weight after six months of organized attempts and have a disease related to obesity. The important concept here is to not make the teens thin, rather to treat their life-threatening diseases.

The most effective procedure is the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. The two-hour laparoscopic surgery makes the stomach smaller by creating a small pouch at the top of the stomach using surgical staples. This small pouch is connected directly to the middle portion of the small intestine, bypassing the rest of the stomach and the upper portion of the small intestine. Not only is the stomach pouch too small to hold large amounts of food, but by skipping the small intestine, absorption of calories is reduced as well.

One of the risks of the surgery for teens is the possibility of losing something other than extra pounds – important vitamins and minerals. Since adolescents are still growing, physicians don’t know if there might be side effects that they can’t predict. For example, much of the calcium in bone is put into the bone at the end of adolescence.

One of the recommendations of the APSA taskforce was that Bariatric surgery should only be performed in teenagers in the setting of a long-term study. It is very important for physicians to learn how to avoid these possible complications by following these patients closely.

In spite of the possible risks, the potential benefits are great. In adults, most of the diseases associated with obesity vastly improve or disappear after the surgery.

By performing the surgery early, it is very likely that these diseases will be even easier to cure. In addition, these teens will have a better quality of life, as they will be able to participate in the normal activities teenagers enjoy.

Once patients are chosen, they participate in a support group and begin to practice the rules they will have to follow after surgery. Once the team is sure that patients and their families understand all the pros and cons of the surgery, and are able to follow the rules, they are scheduled for surgery.

The surgery is saving obese teens lives.

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