Teenage Weight-Loss Surgery

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With the ever-increasing rates of teen obesity, it is perhaps no surprise that the number of teens turning to surgical options for weight-loss is also on the rise. While many argue that teens should lose weight through lifestyle change, some struggling teens turn to surgery because they feel as if they have no other option. For these teens, surgery, as invasive as it may be, seems the only escape from their weight-related struggles.


Surgery Options

Teens, like adults, have two surgeries at their disposal when they opt for the surgical weight-loss route. The least invasive form of weight-loss surgery is gastric banding, or LAP band, surgery. In this procedure, an adjustable band is placed around the patient’s stomach, reducing the size and thereby decreasing the amount that the patient can consume before feeling full. The second, more invasive option is traditional gastric bypass, or stomach stapling. In this procedure, the patient’s stomach is permanently reduced in size.

FDA Restrictions

As ABC News reports, surgical weight loss is not recommended by the FDA for the treatment of teen patients. While these surgical options are not recommended, they are also not prohibited. When doctors opt to use weight-loss surgery for treatment of teen patients, they are using the procedure in an “off-label” manner. Because the FDA doesn’t recommend the use of these procedures for teens, the procedures may not be covered by insurance for teen patients.

Gastric Banding Effectiveness

Research into the effectiveness of gastric banding surgeries on teens have shown mixed results. As ABC News reports, one study that compared the weight-loss of banded teens to those who attempted to make lifestyle changes to promote weight loss showed substantially greater weight-loss success among the teens with gastric bands. This study found that teens with gastric bands lost an average of 76 lbs over two years, while those in the the lifestyle group lost only 6.6 lbs on average. However, other studies have shown that this procedure may not be effective in the long term. As MSNBC reported, one in five teens who lost weight with the aid of this procedure eventually regained the pounds.

Gastric Bypass Option

Because the gastric bypass option is substantially more invasive than banding procedures, it is very rarely used for the treatment of teen patients, and no conclusive research on the effectiveness of the procedure for teen patients exists. Most doctors who do opt to use this procedure for teen patients do so only for teens who are severely obese or suffer from weight-related illnesses, such as diabetes, the effects of which may be reduced by substantial weight loss.

Surgery Qualifications

While doctors can elect to use weight-loss procedures for teens when they see fit, most use a strict set of criteria for evaluating teen patients’ appropriateness for weight-loss surgery. Generally, teens must have tried an organized weight-loss approach for at least six months. They must also have reached physiological and skeletal maturity. All potential patients must be severely obese, with a body mass index of at least 40, to qualify for surgical weight-loss procedures, reports YourBariatricSurgeryGuide.

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