Weight Loss Surgery: Is It Bad for Teens?

Although weight loss surgery for adolescents is on the rise, it still accounts for less than one percent of all weight loss surgeries performed. In the event that a child undergoes this surgery, doctors like to look at how weight threatens their health versus the risks of such surgery.

An obese child is at increased risk of brain pressure that can lead to vision problems, breathing problems, diabetes, joint problems, and liver problems. Losing weight will help alleviate these potential health risks. The problem with surgery is that there haven’t been any in-depth studies to indicate that having surgery as a teenager will actually help them down the road.

Having weight loss surgery will not guarantee that all weight will be lost or maintained. Surgery should not be considered an alternative to proper diet and exercise.

Before surgery is even considered, the teen will have to go through a panel of evaluations and tests by adolescent medicine experts to determine if it is necessary and might be helpful. Due to the lack of studies on the subject, there are no general guidelines on how old a teenager should be to undergo surgery. Much depends on the teen, the amount of weight she needs to lose, and her general health. Surgery of this nature is determined on an individual basis.

Basic Guidelines for Adolescent Weight Loss Surgery:

  • You must be severely overweight and considered obese or overweight.
  • Your body mass index must be greater than 40.
  • They have reached the point of fully developed bones (skeletal maturity). Usually this happens to boys around the age of fifteen and to girls around the age of thirteen.
  • They have had no success with at least six months of physician-administered weight loss programs.
  • For girls, avoid pregnancy for up to one year after surgery.
  • Accept a very strict diet after surgery.
  • Being of sound mind, capable of making reasonable decisions.
  • Very important: You must have a supportive home environment.

Reasons against surgery:

  • If the adolescent or the adolescent’s guardians do not fully understand all the risks of weight-loss surgery.
  • If there is already a medical treatment available to solve the weight problem.
  • Any type of previous drug abuse.
  • Pregnant or planning to become pregnant within two years of the possible surgery.

Weight loss surgery for adolescents should not even be considered unless all other methods of losing weight have been exhausted and only if the weight may present a major health problem for the present and future. Surgery should be, in all cases, the last effort to lose weight.

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