Bariatric surgery for teens
An estimated four to six million US children struggle with severe obesity, yet bariatric surgery is something that is often seen as a last resort for teens. But a new study shows dramatic benefits for those who have surgery before becoming an adult.
At the age of 19, Leayre Sessley made the decision to have sleeve gastrectomy surgery, and just six months later, she's about seventy pounds lighter.
Leayre Sessley says "I was leaning towards to be a pre-diabetic and my grandma's a diabetic and I did not want to end up like her or anyone else in my family who has high cholesterol, heart problems."
Ellie Rodriguez had battled with weight most of her life. She had a stroke while in high school.
Ellie Rodriguez, "Eventually I came to the conclusion after multiple failed attempts to go through with vertical sleeve gastrectomy which is when I decided to have that surgery."
It's common for teens who struggle with severe obesity to already have increased risk factors that predict future heart disease. In fact, a new report led by investigators at Nationwide Children's Hospital found that almost every teenage candidate for bariatric surgery had high blood pressure, abnormal glucose levels, increased inflammation or high cholesterol.
Dr. Marc Michalsky says "The majority of our patients had, not only one, but had multiple cardiovascular risk factors, and in fact, 33 percent of the population studied had three or more identified cardiovascular risk factors."
But three years after surgery, the number of patients who had three or more risk factors dropped by about 85 percent and less than half of all patients studied had any risk factors at all.
Dr. Michalsky says "The younger the patient at the time of surgery, the more likely they were to see some of the advantages that we've been observing as an overall group."
Dr. Marc Michalsky is the lead author on the latest report from the teen labs study, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health and says that lifestyle changes like diet and exercise are important, but that they're often not enough for teens who have more than a hundred pounds to lose.
Dr. Michalsky says "At the very least, they should engage in a conversation that includes a thorough discussion of bariatric surgery as an option."
Leayre Sessley says "It's a whole new life. You have to be very serious about it and come in with an open mind and be willing to change.
Ellie Rodriguez says "So now following surgery, I don't eat any carbs and follow a high protein, high-fat diet."
The study found that the more weight a patient lost after surgery, the better their heart healthy results were.
Researchers say weight loss surgery for severely obese teens is a safe and much more effective treatment than lifestyel changes alone to prevent future health problems.