More obese adolescents turning to surgery
According to a report in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine this month, the number of morbidly obese 10- to 19-year-olds who had weight loss surgery varied little between 1996 and 2000 but more than tripled from 2000 to 2003.
Despite this trend, only 771 weight loss surgeries were performed in adolescents in 2003, representing less than 0.7 percent of so-called “bariatric” procedures performed nationwide, Dr. Randall S. Burd from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in New Brunswick and colleagues report, based on an analysis of U.S. hospital inpatient data.
Because of the small number of weight loss surgeries performed in adolescents, “there are little data that can be used to judge the risks and benefits of surgical weight loss for teenagers,” the authors note.
While the health benefits of weight loss surgery in adolescents are “increasingly” being documented in single-center and multicenter studies, accurate information about “lower frequency outcomes” such as complications and death are not yet available, they add.
From the data Burd’s team analyzed, it seems that early complications – those that occur while the patient is still in the hospital — are relatively low in teens and mirror those seen in adults who have the procedure. Adolescents also tend to spend less time in the hospital following the procedure, the investigators noticed.
And while national data suggest a procedure-related death rate of 0.2 percent for adults having weight loss surgery, Burd’s team says no early deaths have been recorded among adolescents who had the surgery.
As is the case with adults, most adolescents had a type of weight loss surgery called gastric bypass, which shrinks the size of their stomachs. Most were covered by private health insurance. In contrast to adults, more boys than girls had the surgery.
Burd’s team warns that the low number of adolescents having weight loss surgery suggests that many may have the procedure at hospitals with limited experience with this age group.
Efforts to align weight loss surgery programs for adolescents initially with higher volume programs for adults are needed, they conclude, as are studies to get a better handle on the short- and long-term effects of this surgery on morbidly obese adolescents.