What’s New in Adolescent Bariatric Surgery?

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines endorsing, and advocating for, earlier access to weight loss surgery for teens with severe obesity.

Is bariatric surgery right for your family? Melissa Santos, PhD, from Connecticut Children’s bariatric team joins the blog to answer your questions.

What’s changed in the new weight loss surgery guidelines?

The new guidelines allow more youth to qualify for bariatric surgery. Now, youth generally qualify for bariatric surgery when their Body Mass Index (BMI) is between 35 and 39 and they have another health condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or when their BMI is at or above 40. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an easy-to-use tool to calculate you or your child’s BMI.

The new guidelines also allow programs to consider youth for surgery as young as age 10 – and sometimes younger.

What does weight loss surgery involve?

Weight loss surgery is a long-term commitment – it is not a quick fix.

For the surgery to take place, the youth and family must meet with the entire bariatric team of medical and surgical providers, psychologists, dietitians and physical therapists for many months leading up to the procedure. They have to make changes before surgery to their eating and activity, and we as a team have to make sure we feel they are ready for surgery.

As for the actual surgery, Connecticut Children’s performs the laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. That’s where surgeons remove about 75% of the stomach out of the body.

The patient doesn’t get rid of us after surgery, either. We’ll continue to see them for at least 5 years before transitioning to an adult program.

Who should have surgery?

Any youth who meets the BMI requirements and feels they have worked really hard to make changes but still can’t lose weight should contact us. Even if surgery isn’t the best option, we have other options to help. Those who have a condition like diabetes or sleep apnea or have been told they have fatty liver should also consider surgery, as research shows that youth can eliminate these symptoms after surgery.

Can I or my child meet other youth having surgery?

Yes! We require every youth in our program to attend support group each month, where they can meet other children and adolescents preparing for surgery, as well as those who have already had surgery.

I know an adult who had surgery and had a lot of complications or regained all their weight. Will that happen to me or my child?

One of the reasons there’s been a greater push for people to have bariatric surgery at younger ages is because research suggests it’s safer than having the surgery at an older age, when other medical conditions are more likely to be present.

Again, weight loss surgery is not a quick fix. Each patient has to do a lot of work to maintain healthy eating and activity patterns after surgery, or they may regain weight.

My family is interested. What do we do next?

Contact us with your questions at 860.837.6717 or obesity@connecticutchildrens.org.

If you are interested in bariatric surgery, you’ll need to complete our online information session to get started. There, you’ll learn more about bariatric surgery. Once you’ve completed the online presentation, we’ll receive a notification to contact you to discuss the next steps.

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