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Gastric Banding Surgery Works for Teens

Teens Who Got Surgery Lost More Weight Than Those Who Got Nonsurgical Treatment, Researchers Find

Comparing Gastric Banding to Lifestyle Intervention

Twenty-four of the 25 teens in the surgery group and 18 of the 25 in the lifestyle group finished the study. Other results:

  • The gastric banding group lost an average of nearly 13 BMI units; the lifestyle intervention group lost 1.3 BMI units on average.
  • At the end of the study, none of the gastric banding group had metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of risk factors for heart disease and other ailments -- although nine had it at the start. Ten in the lifestyle group had metabolic syndrome at the start, and four of the 18 finishers did at the end.

For several reasons, the banding type of bariatric surgery is preferred over other procedures, such as gastric bypass surgery, O'Brien says. "It is gentle, safe, effective, and fully reversible," he says. "A 15-year-old will be 35 in 20 years' time. Surely we will have better ways to control weight by then. If he has a [gastric band] he can have it out, all goes back to normal, and, if needed, he can go on the new therapy. That cannot happen with procedures that create major and essentially irreversible change [such as bypass surgery]."

As good as the results were, the researchers note in their report that the surgery "is not a quick fix." In fact, 28% of teens in the surgery group needed revisions because of enlargement of the stomach or other factors. To avoid the enlargement problem, eating small meals is crucial, the researchers say.

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.

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