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Bariatric Surgery on the Rise in Obese Teens

Researchers Found a Seven-Fold Increase in Adolescents Aged 13-20
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 20, 2010 -- Bariatric surgery aimed at helping obese adolescents lose weight has increased dramatically in recent years, a new study finds.

Researchers say that from 2005 to 2007, the rate of gastric banding, where a band is surgically placed around the upper part of the stomach using a laparoscope, has jumped nearly seven-fold among youths aged 13 to 20.

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.

Study Procedure

Researchers examined records of 590 patients in California aged 13 to 21 who underwent elective bariatric surgery between 2005 and 2007.

Rates of laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, called LAGB, increased 6.9% from 0.3 to 1.5 per 100,000 of the population. Rates of another procedure, laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, decreased in the same period, from 3.8 to 2.7 per 100,000 people during the study period.

Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is the most common form of these weight loss procedures and involves the creation of a smaller stomach pouch and a bypass of part of the intestine.

Girls Getting Most of the Bariatric Procedures

White adolescent girls, who represent 28% of overweight teens and young adults, underwent 65% of the two procedures.

Researchers say outcomes of these surgical procedures need to be studied further to determine the safety and efficacy of the operations on adolescents. The LAGB procedure has not been approved for patients 18 years and under by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, although previous studies have indicated it is safe and effective.

Further Study Findings

Researchers say 78% of weight loss surgeries were performed on females with a median age of 19 years, and 18% of the operations were done on youths aged 18 years and younger.

Other key findings:

  • Although 52% of the overweight adolescents were of Hispanic descent, only 21% of overweight adolescents who underwent bariatric surgery were Hispanic.
  • Girls represented 43% of overweight young people.
  • 71% of overweight adolescents who underwent the weight loss surgeries had private insurance, 12% had public insurance, and 17% were identified as self-payers.

Authors say hospital complications occurred in 5.6% of patients.

The study authors say additional long-term studies are needed to fully assess the safety, costs, and results of weight loss surgery in the adolescent population.

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