Esteban Varela, MD, MPH, and colleagues conducted the study. Varela is an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Though controversial, bariatric surgery for adolescents appears to be "as safe" as weight loss surgery for adults, write Varela and colleagues.
They reviewed data from 55,501 people who got bariatric surgery between 2002 and 2006 at 97 U.S. academic medical centers.
The vast majority of patients were adults. However, 309 patients were 12-18 years old.
About 2% of the youths were moderate-risk or high-risk patients, compared with about 6% of the adult patients.
There are various types of bariatric surgery. In this study, most patients got gastric bypass surgery, including 94% of adults and about 70% of adolescents.
During the gastric bypass operation, the surgeon creates a smaller stomach pouch that holds less food than a normal stomach. The food passes from the pouch, bypassing part of the small intestine, to the rest of the digestive system.
Bariatric Surgery Complications
In Varela's study, most patients -- young or old -- didn't have complications from their weight loss surgery.
Bariatric surgery complications occurred in 5.5% of the adolescent patients, compared with nearly 10% of adult patients. The study doesn't include details on those complications.
The study doesn't mean that bariatric surgery is trouble-free for adolescents. Weight loss surgery can have complications at any age.
Your doctor can help you weigh the risks of bariatric surgery and provide lifestyle tips for life after weight loss surgery.
Varela's study, presented yesterday in San Diego at the American Society for Bariatric Surgery's annual meeting, only included operations performed at certain academic medical centers.
In January, a government study showed that more than 121,000 bariatric surgeries were done in the U.S. in 2004, including 349 operations performed on youths aged 12-17.