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2007-9-2 10:09:58

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A new study shows that in the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of obese adolescents having surgery to help them lose weight, although the so called bariatric surgery remains relatively uncommon among young people.
The study reported in the current issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that during the period from 2000 to 2003, the number of obese children ages 10- to 19 who had the surgery more than tripled.

As an analysis of U.S. hospital inpatient data shows, 771 adolescents received the surgery in 2003 compared to 110,000 adults nationwide, according to Reuters, citing Dr. Randall S. Burd from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in New Brunswick and colleagues as reporting.

The authors said the risk of the surgery for obese adolescents remains unknown as the case number is not large enough to estimate the risk.   But according to the report, no death was reported associated with the bariatric surgery in adolescents compared to 0.2% of the adult recipients dying from the implications of the surgery.

The gastric bypass surgery is touted for a number of health benefits. Some said that it can help reduce risk of obesity related diseases such heart disease and diabetes.   The opponents claimed that the surgery does not help all the recipients and side-effects can be serious like many other surgeries.

Those who are unfortunately obese should think twice before they make a decision to receive the weight loss surgery.   They need to thoroughly weigh all the risks and benefits to make an informed decision.


Title:        Bariatric Surgery in Adolescents: Recent National Trends in Use and In-Hospital Outcome
Authors:    Wilson S. Tsai; Thomas H. Inge; Randall S. Burd
Publication:   Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161:217-221.

The following common questions and answers regarding bariatric surgery complied by an editor for those who want to know more about the surgery.

What is bariatric weight loss surgery?

The surgery is performed in a obese person to have the body absorb less calories than he eats. This can be achieved by two ways. One is to seal part of the stomach to reduce the digestion of food in the organ and the other is to rearrange the small intestine to reduce the absorption of calories and of course other nutrients.

There are a few different types of bariatric weight loss surgical procedures, but all collectively called 'bariatric surgery'.

Is the Surgery the best option for weight loss?

Bariatric surgery is indicated for morbidly obese people only.   It should be considered the last resort. Like other surgeries, it carries pain and risks of any major gastrointestinal surgical operations including death in 0.2% of the patients.

Is there any dietary requirement for patients who received the surgery?

Obese people often fail to follow a healthy diet so in the end they have to resort to bariatric surgery.  But the surgery by itself requires post-surgical attention to the patients’ diet.   

Eating too much can make the patients very ill as the system could not accept much of the food a patient overeats. Also surgery recipients are at risk of nutrient deficiencies in their remaining life time.

Does the surgery lead to weight loss?

In most of cases, the answer is yes.  Some patients lose so much weight after the gastrointestinal surgery that their body weight falls into the normal range.   But some still remain overweight even though they lose a substantial amount of weight because of the surgery.

Who should or should not receive bariatric weight loss surgery?

Some surgeons perform the surgery on teenagers and old people age 60 or above.   But only those who have severe obesity related health problems may consider the surgery, which is indicated for morbidly obese people with a body mass index of 40 or above.

Those with a relatively low BMI, but with a server obesity related condition such as type 2 diabetes or cardio-pulmonary problems such as sleep apnea or heart disease may also consider the option.

Is hospitalization required for the surgery?

In order to lower the risk of surgery complications, some patients need to be admitted into hospital prior to the weight loss surgery.

Who would be more likely to have a successful bariatric surgery?

Patients who have a high motivation to lose weight and follow the post-surgical dietary instruction and behavioral therapy are more likely to have a successful surgery.   This patient altitude actually is one of the criteria for surgeons to decide who can receive the operation.

How much does a bariatric surgery cost?

The GI surgical operations may cost $25,000 or more.   Health insurance plans may or may not cover part of the cost.    Consult insurers for the policy on this special weight loss option.

What can I do to help myself make an informed decision whether or not to accept the surgery?

The best way to learn about the bariatric surgery is to talk to patients who have undergone the surgery.   The information a patient gets from medical circles may not reflect the feeling that a patient could have after the wight loss operation.

Is there an alternative to bariatric surgery for weight loss?

The best alternative is to use a healthy diet and prevent the occurrence of obesity in the first place.   People need to know that they are not born to be obese. Nor are they born to receive weight loss surgery.