Teens Under the Knife Lose Weight

Bariatric procedures among teenagers have plateaued since 2003 though more are overweight

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Just as adults with severe obesity go under the knife for help, more teenagers are now following suit.

Among teenagers, the number needing bariatric surgery has leveled off to about a thousand cases each year since 2003.  Minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques is the preferred method of surgery, according to a recently published study.

"Talk to your child's pediatrician about healthy diets."

The aim of the study, led by Deirdre Kelleher, MD, and colleagues from the Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC, was to see how many teens between 10 and 19 years of age had bariatric surgery procedures between 2000 and 2009.

Researchers looked at the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Kids' Inpatient Database which shares hospital information for patients 21 years of age and younger. They tracked the number of adolescents undergoing some type bariatric surgery in each of the last four releases since 2000, including open, laparoscopic, laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding and gastroplasty.

They found that the number of bariatric procedures increased from 0.8 per 100,000, or 328 total procedures, at the start of the study to 2.3 per 100,000, or 987 procedures in 2003.

Between 2006 and 2009, the rate changed very little, from 925 total procedures to a little over a thousand. At that time, laparoscopy started becoming the more commonly used method over open surgery, mirroring adult trends.

“The data show that adolescent bariatric surgery trends mirror those observed in the adult population, with a plateau in volume during the mid 2000s and a shift toward less invasive procedures," researchers said in a press release.

"They also point to low use of this potentially life-altering treatment in adolescent boys and groups of lower socioeconomic status.”

Researchers say the plateau may be from a gap between kids eligible for surgery and those who actually get it done. In addition, doctors and insurance coverage may have limited the number of patients getting the procedure.

Patients as young as 12 years old had the procedure, and about three-quarters were female throughout the study. The number of operations increased the most for those older than 17, from about 71 percent in 2003 to almost 76 percent in 2009.

More than 75 percent of the procedures were done in adult hospitals, half performed at teaching institutions. The time spent at the hospital decreased over the period from about three days to less than two.

No deaths occurred among teens having surgery, and the number of complications was less than 3 percent.

The authors note the information they gathered from the database reports did not include details on patients' body mass index, the severity of the disease and other symptoms.

The reports also did not show trends by age, procedure subtypes, and procedures done outside the hospital setting. In addition, not all the procedures may have been tracked properly in the report.

The study was published online December 17 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine by JAMA. The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 17, 2012
Last Updated:
December 19, 2012