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Gastric Banding Better? Experts Weigh In

The new research confirms previous research, says John W. Baker, MD, president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and co-director of bariatric surgery, director of the medical weight loss program, and director of the general surgery residency program at Baptist Health in Little Rock, Ark.

"This is a randomized trial, that's an additional strength, [showing] banding kids did better," he tells WebMD. However, he says, the study "is not discounting the fact that medical treatment can help some."

In fact, the study ''has something for everybody," says Edward H. Livingston, MD, professor and chairman of gastrointestinal and endocrine surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who wrote an editorial to accompany the study.

''You can have an impact on kids no matter what you do," he tells WebMD. The teens in the lifestyle intervention group did not have nearly as much weight loss as the banding group, he says, but they did have improvements in medical conditions that can accompany excess weight, such as blood pressure reductions.

Another value of the research, he says, is to supply scientific evidence that the banding does work for teens, information that is crucial for insurance companies to have when considering whether to pay for the surgery.

The new study results are consistent with those by others that have looked at adults, says Paresh C. Shah, MD, chief of laparoscopic services at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, who also reviewed the study for WebMD. But the Australian researchers, he says, "have added to the experience and understanding of the role for surgery in the most challenging and controversial of patients, the obese adolescent."

Even so, he says, no one, including the researchers, promotes the surgery as a cure. "It's the most effective long-term treatment modality," Shah says of bariatric surgery. The researchers, he says, "are careful to emphasize surgery is not a cure. There is still a lot of compliance necessary on the patient's and family's behalf."

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