MONDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- More overweight teenagers
are undergoing laparoscopic gastric band surgery, a weight-loss
procedure that isn't approved for anyone under 18 years old, a new
Looking at a database of bariatric surgeries in California,
researchers found that gastric band operations, which constrict the
stomach, increased seven-fold from 2005 to 2007.
The rates are going up "as diet and activity are proven again
and again to be ineffective at getting morbidly obese patients to
lose weight," said study co-author Dr. Daniel A. DeUgart, a
pediatric surgeon at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Weight-loss surgery has surged in popularity over the past
decade. Gastric bypass surgery, the gold standard, routes food away
from much of the stomach, but the study found that fewer teens were
opting for that procedure, and signing up for gastric banding
Both operations are designed to make it difficult for people to
overeat because they'll feel sick if they do.
For the study, published online Sept. 20 in the journal
Pediatrics, the researchers found that 590 people between 13 and 20 years old underwent gastric band or gastric bypass surgery in the period studied.
Eighteen percent of the patients were under 18, and almost 80
percent were female.
And while whites make up only 28 percent of overweight
adolescents in California, they accounted for 65 percent of the
Some experts, including DeUgart, believe the surgeries are
needed; others express concern that teens may be risking their
health looking for a quick fix.
Most of the weight-reduction surgeries (93 percent) were
performed in hospitals that are not affiliated with nationally
recognized children's hospitals, the study authors reported.
The authors also noted that although "manufacturers have touted
the banding procedure as less invasive, many [medical] centers have
abandoned gastric banding because of poor long-term results,"
concerns about chronic esophageal blockage, the need for frequent
readjustments, and complications from the surgery.
As with any operation, weight-loss surgery can cause serious
complications, including infection, leaks, respiratory arrest,
blood clots and death, according to the American Society for
Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery. (No deaths were reported in this
Then there's cost: about $17,000 and up for the average gastric
band procedure, according to experts. Most of the families of
patients in the current study paid that amount out-of-pocket.
Dr. Edward Livingston, a gastric surgeon at the University of
Texas Southwestern School of Medicine, is concerned about the
popularity of weight-loss surgeries and the surgeons
"These operations clearly help some people, but they're trying to sell it as a solution for everybody," he said. "If you follow the rules it works. But most people who get to be 400 pounds aren't very good at following rules."
Proponents argue that obesity carries its own health risks.
Morbid obesity is a major problem for today's youth, DeUgart
said, noting some over-sized students must be home-schooled because
they don't fit into the chairs in their local public schools.
"Bariatric surgery is increasingly becoming a treatment option for adolescents, and in the right setting and with proper evaluation, it may be appropriate," said DeUgart.
Research suggests that for severely obese patients, weight-loss
surgery may be the most effective method of weight loss, according
to background information in the study.
But bariatric surgery isn't a cure-all for obesity. The study
doesn't say if the procedures kept weight off in the long term.
The authors note that further studies are needed to assess the
long-term safety and effectiveness of the operations in this age
group. In addition, some insurance companies won't cover the
Many teens aren't emotionally ready for a huge change in how
they look at food, Livingston added. "When you force that kind of
change on them, you can run into trouble," he said.
For more about weight-loss surgeries, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.