Bariatric weight loss surgery is on the rise every year in America. Between 200,000 and 250,000 adults receive bariatric surgery annually. A smaller statistic that seems to carry more weight is the fact that about 1,000 American teenagers received some sort of weight loss surgery last year and the number is increasing every day.
The most common types of bariactric procedures are gastric bypass, gastric banding, and sleeve gastrectomy, and all involve surgery which is very risky, especially for teenagers.
While some of the risks for post-op teenagers come from the surgery itself, other risks come from the ability of the patient to follow rules. Since the procedures limit the amount of food one can eat, malnutrition is a very serious threat, made worse for teenagers who are still developing and need those nutrients for proper growth. Because of the risk of malnutrition, most patients are required to be on a strict vitamin regimen for the rest of their lives to ensure the body receives the vital elements it can no longer obtain from food.
Many argue that an immature teen is not capable of making the lifestyle changes necessary to maintain the weight loss that comes from surgery. Since bariactric surgery is not a cure-all for obesity, many patients struggle to change the health habits that caused the obesity in the first place. Post surgery patients need to learn portion control- extreme calorie restriction- and fitness habits. Many argue most teens are just not capable of making those changes, and lost weight will be regained, or not even lost in the first place, and the teen is no better off than before the pricey procedure- only this time, feeling hopelessly defeated.
Thankfully, teens must go through many hoops before they can receive these surgeries. Teams of dietitians, physiologists, pediatricians, exercise physiologists, and social workers work for an extended period of time alongside a teenager to really see if they are prepared for such a life altering event. In most cases, teens are required to lose weight before the surgery getting them used to following a strict plan. These teams of professionals are able to teach children how to eat, exercise, and form new habits. During this time, some teens have been so successful on their own that they choose not to have the surgery at all.