Scientists from Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Centre have found that minimally-invasive weight loss surgery significantly improves obesity-related medical complications.
The study was conducted over a small group of extremely obese teenagers who received the minimally invasive surgery, also called the laparoscopic gastric banding.
They followed 14 adolescents, six boys and eight girls, between the ages of 14 and 17 who were, on average, 174 pounds overweight.
They also received dietary counselling and encouragement to exercise, both before and after surgery.
The researchers found the subjects lost an average of 20 pounds after six months extensively improved abdominal fat, triglyceride measurements (levels of fat in the blood) and blood sugar levels as measured by hemoglobin A1c. All these are the risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
The patients' liver function and a measure of immune response also improved.
"Extremely obese teenagers have obesity-related health problems, particularly diabetes and increased cardiovascular risk," said lead author Dr. Ilene Fennoy, a pediatric endocrinologist at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian
"Laparoscopic gastric banding, which has been shown to be a safe and effective way to lose weight, now offers the possibility of reducing obesity's medical complications."
"Until recently, these patients have had to rely primarily on non-surgical methods or higher-risk surgeries to lose weight, and few of these treatments have succeeded in achieving major weight loss or greatly improving their overall health," said Fennoy, also a clinical professor of pediatrics at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The Lap-Band procedure has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for adults but not yet in teenagers.
It involves making the stomach smaller without staples. In the procedure, a band is place around the upper part of the stomach, creating a small pouch that restricts food intake.
The surgeon implants a small access port, and after the surgery the doctor periodically adjusts the gastric band by inflating or deflating a saline-filled balloon that lies inside the band. If desired, the procedure is reversible.
The study was presented at The Endocrine Society's 90th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.