Bariatric surgery once considered the last resort treatment for morbidly obese adults with accompanying medical problems is being increasingly performed in teens.
As statistics from researchers of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey show, the use of surgery to treat obesity has tripled within the years 2000 to 2003.
The figure stayed about the same from 1996 to 2000, but it increased more than three-fold by 2003, a year in which 771 of these operations were performed. From 1996 to 2003, a total of 2,744 people age 10 to 19 had the surgery, according to the researchers.
Although 69.9% of the adolescents were female, the proportion of female adolescent patients was significantly lower than the number of female patients in the adult group, the researchers report in the findings published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
The increase rightly matches the number of obese adolescents in U.S as numbers skyrocket. Obesity is fast becoming the norm as foods high in fat; sugar and salt are now cheaper and more readily available than ever in the form of burgers, pizzas, fries, sweets etc.
Yet these young people still represent less than 1 percent of patients undergoing such procedures in 2003, the researchers say. Doctors caution that while the health benefits of weight loss surgery in adolescents are 'increasingly' being documented in single-center and multicenter studies, accurate information about 'lower frequency outcomes' such as complications and death are not yet available.
So far it seems that early complications - those that occur while the patient is still in the hospital, are relatively low in teens and mirror those seen in adults who have the procedure. Adolescents also tend to spend less time in the hospital following the procedure, the investigators noticed.
And while national data suggest a procedure-related death rate of 0.2 percent for adults having weight loss surgery, the research team led by Randall Burd says no early deaths have been recorded among adolescents who had the surgery.
As is the case with adults, most adolescents had a type of weight loss surgery called gastric bypass, which shrinks the size of their stomachs.
As can be seen from the statistics, bariatric surgery is fast becoming an alternative to diet and behavioral methods to reduce weight.