Weight-loss surgery for children remains a controversial medical option. Even though the growing rates of youth obesity are well documented, many health professionals contend that going under the knife is not an effective means for children to deal with their weight issues. No one knows exactly how many adolescents are turning to surgery to get thinner. As reported by Laura Beil in the New York Times (2010), one of the few studies, published in March 2007 in the “Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine” noted that bariatric surgery in teenagers is relatively rare but rising fast: the number of operations tripled from 2000 to 2003 when 800 surgeries were performed.
Laparoscopic Gastric Banding
Laparoscopic gastric banding, or lap band surgery as it is commonly called, is non-invasive in that it does not re-route any part of the digestive system. This type of surgery consists of placing an adjustable band around the patient’s stomach to reduce the amount of food that he can consume. While as of 2011, the FDA hasn’t yet approved this surgery for use on children, this doesn’t mean that doctors can’t perform the operation on individuals under 18. Doctors can conduct lap band surgery at their discretion on patients under the age of 18 despite this lack of FDA recommendation. As reported by David B. Carus in the Washington Post (2007), most doctors only perform this surgery after their child patients spend at least six months attempting to lose weight under hospital supervision. Because this surgery is adjustable, it may provide the best option for children in need of surgical weight loss.
Gastric Bypass Surgery
Gastric bypass surgery is a more invasive surgical weight-loss option than the lap band procedure in that it consists of reducing the patient’s stomach size by stapling the stomach. This surgery generally consists of reducing the patient’s stomach to a small pouch and re-routing food intake to the small intestine. While doctors may elect to use this surgery for patients under 18, many are hesitant to do so as it is more complicated and poses more risk of failure to surgical patients.
While stomach-reducing surgeries may seem like an easy fix for a child who has long struggled with his weight, it is hardly without risk. Children who elect to undergo weight loss surgery may have to deal with medical issues that include potentially serious infection, hair loss and iron deficiency. Because of the array of complications that individuals who lose weight through surgical options can experience, many doctors are hesitant to perform surgeries of this type on children and do so only when the child is suffering from medical conditions as a result of his weight.