Bariatric Surgery For Teenagers: The Arguments
A recent news story revealed that two 14 year olds had undergone weight-loss surgery at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. The resulting debate looked at the general provision of such surgeries and whether they should be offered to minors.
Bariatric (weight-loss) surgery is available to treat morbidly obese people who are at risk of serious health problems and premature death. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued the CG43 guidelines recommending that weight loss surgery be offered to patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or 35 in the presence of other serious weight related health problems. It is generally offered to those between 18 and 60 years of age.
There are a variety of surgery types but the main 2 are laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB) and gastric bypass (generally performed keyhole). TV programmes such as Discovery Home and Health’s Fat Doctor, has educated viewers as to the advantages of surgery, by demonstrating the health benefits and improvements in quality of life. There is now increasing demand for surgery and some parents are considering it as an option for their obese children. Few UK surgeons will consider such surgery in minors and even fewer primary care trusts will fund it meaning that parents often have to fund the operations themselves.
Janet, 20 underwent gastric banding at 18. She said “I really thought I understood about the gastric band after seeing it on TV but I wasn’t prepared for the mental struggle when I was unable to turn to food for comfort. It took a long time to adjust. I can’t imagine what it’s like when you are at school. I think it shouldn’t be offered under 18-you’re just not mature enough”.
Specialist obesity surgery consultant, Shaw Somers, is one of the Fat Doctors. He comments:
“As with all patients, you need to assess them as individuals and ensure that they fully understand the implications and effects of surgery. Sure, it would be ideal if we could avoid surgery on minors but if a 15 year old already has a BMI of 40, waiting until they are 18 almost guarantees a significant weight gain. I would sooner operate on an informed 15 year old with a BMI of 40 than wait until they are 18 with type II diabetes and sleep apnoea.”
Source by Daniel Harris