Research shows that weight loss surgery for teens is not effective if their BMI’s (Body Mass Index) are in their 50’s or higher.
In the last decade weight loss surgery has been one of the most sought after procedures in the United States. This is in great part due to the fact that we have the largest obesity problem in the entire world. The saddest part of this is the fact that more teenagers are being diagnosed as overweight.
For adults, doctors typically recommend weight loss surgery. For teenagers this is not the typically recommended option. Recent studies have shown that there is a limited window of opportunity to reverse obesity with surgery in teens. Researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center studied sixty-one teenagers who underwent the RNY bypass surgery. The results showed that one year post surgery their pre-operative weight had dropped by an average of thirty-seven percent, but many of them were still at weights considered obese.
The research involved teenagers with a starting BMI of 55-57, the typical BMI for the hospitals RNY surgery ranging from 50 to 55. The results of this study showed that once teenagers reach the 55-60 BMI level, the realistic chances of them dropping weight to below morbidity with weight loss surgery is about half.
Another problem is that most insurance companies will not cover the costs related to sending a teenager through weight loss surgeries when they are first requested. They often reason that they want documentation of multiple attempts of other weight loss methods prior to ever allowing the process to be covered out of medical necessity. This intensifies an already out of control problem with the teen’s weight. And as the patient is failing at other dieting attempts and continuing to gain weight, their body mass level (BMI) is getting higher and higher.
"We are trying to help teenagers who are at high risk for preventable but life-threatening diseases such as diabetes or obesity induced liver disease”, says Mary L. Brandt, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery and a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital. She explains that bariatric surgery will improve the medical condition of obese teenagers regardless of the starting weight of the patient but a doctor’s ability to help these children prevent or reverse their life-threatening diseases will be even greater if children approach a normal weight.
The conclusion is that we need to educate our children about making smarter eating choices and creating a healthier lifestyle while they are younger. It is also suggested that parents consider having their children evaluated for these weight loss surgeries before their BMI hits the 40 range.