Bariatric surgery safe for teens, new study finds

The largest-ever multicenter, prospective study on the safety of bariatric surgery among adolescents finds they face few short-term complications.

The largest-ever multicenter, prospective study on the safety of bariatric surgery among adolescents found that population faces few short-term complications after undergoing such a procedure.

bariatric surgery sThe study, recently published online in JAMA Pediatrics, is the first to provide data on this weight-loss option, which has become increasingly used as obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled since 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The University of Alabama at Birmingham and Children’s of Alabama are part of the Teen Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (Teen-LABS) consortium and were among the five sites included in the study led by investigators at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Conducted from 2007 to 2012, the study involved 242 participants with an average age of 17, and a median body mass index (BMI) of 50.5. For reference, a 16-year-old girl of average height with a BMI of 50 has a weight of nearly 300 pounds. All participants in the study suffered from health complications resulting from obesity.

Major and minor complications occurring within 30 days of weight-loss surgery were examined. Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery was performed on 66 percent of the study participants, while 28 percent underwent vertical sleeve gastrectomy, and another 6 percent underwent adjustable gastric banding. Information on complications was collected 30 days after surgery.

Initial data from the study suggests weight-loss surgery can be offered to adolescents with a reasonable expectation of short-term safety. Seventy-seven percent of study participants showed no post-procedure complications, and an additional 15 percent exhibited only minor complications, such as dehydration. Eight percent of the patients suffered major complications — some requiring reoperation. There were no deaths.

“It’s very exciting,” said Carroll Harmon, M.D., Ph.D., a study co-author and professor of surgery at UAB and general pediatric surgeon at Children’s of Alabama.

“On the front end, it looks like a relatively safe procedure for severely obese adolescents, and we’re looking forward to producing long-term outcomes data in the same group of patients as this current study,” Harmon added.

Investigators say further research is necessary to accurately gauge long-term risks and benefits for adolescents undergoing weight-loss surgery. The Teen-LABS consortium is following these participants to collect this information.