With obesity now at epidemic proportions amongst teenagers the gastric lap band is gaining acceptance as a solution to adolescent obesity. But is this the right solution for teenage obesity?
Until now the answer to excessive weight gain in adolescents has been a strict program of behavior modification including diet and exercise and, while in the short term, this has helped a minority of teenagers, most have gone on to become obese adults. As a result some doctors have looked towards weight loss surgery as the answer.
This has usually meant gastric bypass surgery, such as the traditional Roux en y form operation and, even in the most experienced hands, this carries a small but very real risk of death. This risk is frequently thought to be acceptable for many adult patients when it is balanced against the fact that obesity is also causing other serious health problems, or is likely to do so in the very near future. In generally healthy teenagers however many surgeons have considered that, even at only one or two percent, this risk is too high.
The arrival of lap banding however has changed the picture markedly and a growing number of surgeons are now considering this form of weight loss surgery for teenagers. But how successful is gastric banding in teenagers?
Well, as laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery is still a relatively new procedure and the number of adolescent patients, while on the rise, is small, this is a difficult question to answer. Statistics are however becoming available and, so far, they look very encouraging.
For example, in one recent study carried out by the New York University School of Medicine a total of 53 teenagers (41 girls and 12 boys) between the ages of 13 and 17 showed some impressive result after undergoing laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding.
The teenagers, who on averaged weighed 297 pounds before surgery and had an average body mass index (BMI) of 47.6, had lost some 50 percent of their excess weight 18 months after surgery. Additionally, all came through the surgery without complications and only 5 developed minor complications following surgery, which were treated on an outpatient basis.
It is impossible of course at this point to say what the long term results will be for this group of patient and only time will answer that question. Nevertheless, these early results are encouraging.
In spite of these encouraging results many doctors still see one problem which they consider to be a major obstacle to the use of the lap band operation in teenagers and that is the fact that the long term success of surgery depends upon patients making dramatic changes to their lifestyle and also adjusting to a strict diet.
For a large number of doctors this raises the question of whether or not many adolescents are able to understand this and have the maturity to cope with it.