Weight loss surgeries like the gastric sleeve (sleeve gastrectomy) are gaining in popularity with teens.
It’s easy to see why.
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that teens who underwent bariatric (weight loss surgery) lost just as much weight as adults who underwent surgery and saw complications such as diabetes and high blood pressure diminish or disappear altogether.
Nearly one-fifth of U.S. adolescents are obese and at least 7% are deemed to be severely obese. Children and adolescents with severe obesity are at greater risk for obesity-related health conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, cardiac hypertrophy, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Obese kids also face depression and a depleted quality of life.
Children with severe obesity are almost always doomed to remain obese as adults.
Medical options consisting of lifestyle modifications to support changes in physical activity and diet can help. However, weight loss surgeries like the gastric sleeve and non-surgical options like the gastric balloon can also help teens achieve a healthier weight. Surgery can give teens a better quality of life and set them up to have a healthier and longer life in adulthood.
Is Weight Loss Surgery for Teens Safe?
Weight loss surgery can be safe for teenagers (age 13 to 19) in the hands of the best bariatric surgeon. The best candidates for teen bariatric surgery are those with a BMI over 35 and who have tried to lose weight and failed. Many younger patients turn to weight loss surgery because they also face serious medical problems like type 2 diabetes, which bariatrics can treat.
It should be noted that bariatric surgery is not a quick fix for excess weight loss. The teen must still put in hard work before and after the operation to achieve life-changing results.
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Two Common Types of Teen Weight Loss Surgery
There are two primary types of surgery for weight loss in teenage patients. These are called the sleeve gastrectomy (gastric sleeve) and the Roux-en-Y (gastric bypass).
Sleeve Gastrectomy (Gastric Sleeve)
The gastric sleeve is the most common bariatric procedure. With this procedure, the surgeon removes around 80% of your stomach. Then, the surgeon form remaining portion into a tube or “sleeve” where the food you eat will be stored. This new, much smaller stomach will help you eat less, and feel fuller faster during meals.
The operation also affects hormones that control hunger and satiety. You won’t feel as hungry and your cravings for naughty foods may cease. At the same time, insulin resistance should improve, which can help to reverse diabetes.
The gastric sleeve procedure is permanent and not reversible.
Gastric Bypass Surgery
The Roux-en-Y procedure begins much like the sleeve gastrectomy. Your surgeon will create a small pouch at the top of your stomach. That pouch will become your new stomach, where the food you eat will be sent. The surgeon will connect that pouch to the middle part of your small intestine. This forces the food you eat to bypass the upper part of the small intestine. You will eat less, feel fuller faster, and find yourself less hungry. You will also take in fewer calories and nutrients because the small intestine is shorter.
Like the gastric sleeve, the gastric bypass is not reversible.
Both bariatric surgeries can help teen patients drop the excess weight rapidly within the first two years.
Are There Risks to Teens Who Undergo Bariatrics?
Weight loss surgery does come with risks just like any other operation. People who have had weight loss surgery may experience discomfort after eating. Acid reflux and diarrhea are also common following surgery, especially if the teen eats too much or too fast.
Teens who undergo surgery should get used to eating small amounts. They should space out meals and should chew food thoroughly before swallowing.
For teens who undergo gastric bypass, food can move too fast through the stomach and intestines. This is called “dumping syndrome”. Symptoms include nausea, cramping, weakness, sweating, and diarrhea. Eating foods high in sugar and fat can make dumping syndrome worse. Teen weight loss surgery patients should take care to eat whole, nutrient dense foods and to eat them slowly throughout the day.
Proper Diet After Weight Loss Surgery
Teens who have weight loss surgery may not get all the nutrients they require. For one, they are eating less. For another, the food they eat doesn’t move through their entire digestive system (in the case of the gastric bypass). Because of these reasons, the body cannot absorb as many vitamins and minerals following surgery, which may require the patient to take a vitamin or mineral supplement.
In rare cases, teens and adults who undergo weight loss surgery can experience bleeding, a bad reaction to anesthesia, infection, a leaky stomach or intestine, blood clot, blockage of the intestines, gastroesophageal reflux, and weight regain.
Mental health problems like anxiety and depression can be a concern for teenagers before and after surgery. Most young patients feel better about their bodies following bariatric surgery. Others may struggle. Teens who do find it hard to accept their new bodies are encouraged to reach out to a mental health professional. Getting help can aid the teen in succeeding with weight loss surgery and can mitigate emotional concerns.
Schedule a Consultation for Your Obese Teen
If your teen is obese, weight loss surgery could help your child live a healthier and longer life. Bariatrics like the sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass can help your teen achieve a normal weight. And if your teen suffers from an obesity-related health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure, bariatric surgery could be the remedy you’ve been searching for.
Schedule a consultation to learn more about weight loss surgery and how it can help your teenager. Call Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki of Healthy Life Bariatrics (310)694-4486.