Teen obesity-surgery candidates often sickly
By Lindsey Tanner ASSOCIATED PRESS
AL BEHRMAN ASSOCIATED PRESS Chelsea Hale of Fairfield, Ohio, went from 314 pounds to 170 after her obesity surgery in 2010.
CHICAGO — U.S. teens seeking weight-loss surgery have a startling number of health problems that used to be seen only in adults, according to a major government-funded study.
Half the teens had at least four major illnesses linked with their excess weight. Three out of four had cholesterol problems; almost half had high blood pressure or joint pain; and many had diseased livers or kidneys.
These kids weighed three times more than what is considered healthy. They weren’t just teens “ who want to fit into that cheerleading outfit better,” said Dr. Thomas Inge, the study’s lead researcher and a surgeon at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
The study offers reassuring evidence that obesity surgery is generally safe for teens, echoing previous short-term research. While the surgery is a drastic, last-ditch option, major complications occurred in just 8 percent of teens. Less-serious complications, including bleeding and dehydration, affected 15 percent of kids during the first month after surgery.
The study involved 242 teens who had surgery at five U.S. centers from 2007 through 2011. Results for the first month after surgery were released online yesterday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.The National Institutes of Health paid for the study.
In a recent scientific statement, the American Heart Association said obesity surgery may be the most-effective treatment for what it called “severe obesity” in teens, a condition it said affects about 5 percent of U.S. children and is increasing nationwide. The group’s threshold for severe obesity is a body mass index of at least 35; the average BMI in the study was 51.
- Because lifestyle changes and medication rarely work for such obese teens, the statement says obesity surgery should be considered for those with related health problems who are psychologically mature enough to handle it.
The new results bolster evidence from smaller studies and also suggest teens might do better, at least initially, than adults. Earlier 30-day research in adults found a few deaths after obesity surgery, although the risk was no greater than for other major operations. There were no deaths in the teen study.
A three-year follow-up report on more than 2,000 patients in the adult study also was published online yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It showed adults generally had fewer obesity-related illnesses than in the teen study, and most weight loss occurred within the first year after surgery.
- Gastric bypass surgery, the most-common operation in the U.S., resulted in more weight loss and more improvement in related illnesses than stomach banding, as other studies have shown.
Three-year death rates were low, and similar, for both procedures, but band patients had many more repeat surgeries.
In the teen study, whether obesity surgery resulted in lasting weight loss and better health remains to be seen; the researchers are still following the participants and calculating data.
But anecdotal reports from the teens suggest they’re doing pretty well.
- Chelsea Hale of Cincinnati has shrunk from 314 to 170 pounds — almost half her previous size — since having surgery three years ago at age 17 at Cincinnati Children’s. Before surgery, Hale had a hormonal problem, heart blockage and sleep apnea — all linked with obesity. All have since subsided.
“I feel good, I can pretty much physically do anything,” said Hale, now in nursing school.
Like 28 percent of the teens studied, she had gastric sleeve surgery, which involves removing part of the stomach and creating a smaller tube or sleeve-shape stomach. She has to be careful to eat only small portions of foods, but otherwise said she has no food restrictions.
Some teens in the study say they no longer can tolerate certain foods, including sugar, meat or dairy products.
Most teens had gastric bypass or stomach stapling, which creates a small pouch in the stomach and attaches it to the intestines. A handful had gastric band operations, in which surgeons position an adjustable band around the top of the stomach and inflate it to shrink the stomach. This operation has not been approved for U.S. teens.
Almost any competent physician who has taken the time to approach this urgent need so prevalent in our country these days, by learning the necessary basics of nutrition fundamentals would of course, be able to correct these problems before it ever approached these dramatic, pathetic levels.
It is beyond me to understand how medicine ever came to be so ill equipt to handle every day occurrences which are so ultimately essential and natural to assist body function when it ails. How people can call themselves doctors and be ignorant of how and why it gets sick and unhealthy; when simply nutritional education would solve the whole problem is a tragedy. The best doctors with the famous names all had the same experience. Their patients didn’t get better, they stayed sick and died. They opened their eyes and minds and 2 and 2 finally added up to 4. They learned. They are helping people in the north, south, east and west. It is so simple. You are what you eat.
These kids have been let down by their own doctors and parents who also don’t understand — because their doctors don’t know in order to tell them.
Even with all these procedures and the cost and risk and misery they must go through, if they still don’t understand how and what to eat and why, their problems will not go away. The cause is not fixed or alleviated. Medicine is only manipulating and forcing the body to do unnatural stuff while you manipulate the symptoms. The original sickness remains. It’s unfair. It’s fraud. It’s wrong! And all of you should be ashamed of yourselves.
Any of the doctors and nutritionists which have been highlighted here could have prevented all of this or corrected it back to normal within a year and with out surgery or prescription meds. It’s a fact. Jan)