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Weight-Loss Surgery for Teens
Teen obesity is a growing problem in society today, but is it a healthy option for developing adolescents to undergo a weight loss surgery? Today, about one-third of children and teenagers are overweight, and one out of six children and adolescents between ages six and nineteen are obese. Obesity is when a person has an excess amount of body fat, with a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or higher. In order to be eligible for weight loss surgery, the patient must has a BMI of 40 or higher but still be healthy enough for surgery. A growing number of adolescents are undergoing weight loss surgeries to break their bad habits and possibly change their life forever, but doctors nationwide have been noticing the dangerous side-effects of the surgery; especially on young, maturing adults.
Growing teenagers are more at risk during surgery than fully-matured adults, because they are still growing and can possibly grow out of their Lap Bands or staples. Some of the patients of the “Lap Band” procedure frequently have their bands removed due to significant difficulties including slipping (of the bands), and perforating (staples cutting the stomach tissue). “A Belgian study of adult patients found that nearly half had their bands removed within 12 years for various reasons, according to the study's principal author, Dr. Jacques Himpens: they did not lose much weight; they regained what they had lost; they had frequent heartburn or vomiting; or the band would slip or perforate the stomach. A German study found that 30 percent of patients needed new operations within 14 years, some because they wanted bands removed, and others because of complications like slippage” (Hartocollis). Because of this, weight loss procedures, like the Lap Band or the Gastric Sleeve Procedure (using staples), are notably dangerous and could have even worse effects on young adults.
Adolescents are more likely to not follow the given rules, and potentially ruin their bodies. If the patient disobeys the set directions, the now-smaller stomach pouch can become inflated and stretch the stomach tissue (possibly causing perforation), or become enlarged above the band, causing “pouch dilation”. “Another study in Australia found that one-third of operations on teenagers required follow-up surgeries within two years, often because of "pouch dilation," when the stomach above the band becomes enlarged, which can happen if the patient does not follow the regimen and tries to eat too much.” (Hartocollis). With the unreliability of the surgery and patient, the need for a follow-up procedure arises, which is not affordable, even with insurance, for most families in the U.S.
Since the size of the stomach is lessened, less nutrients can be absorbed by the body. And then, because of the lack of nourishment, the ever-developing adolescent body’s growth is stunted. The stunted growth causes problems in the bones, sexual maturity, etc. “A more critical question is whether surgery can lead to malnutrition, particularly in bypass patients because their shortened digestive tracts absorb fewer nutrients, which could affect bone growth, sexual maturation and other development.” (Maher). Eating is the way living things put nutrients into their bodies, and if the surgeries are causing a significant decrease in the amount of nutrients absorbed; growth patterns, puberty, and bone growth would be affected causing problems especially for young maturing teenagers.
Surgery creates the illusion for morbidly obese teens that changing their lifestyle isn’t necessary. They don’t exercise to keep weight off, because it is too difficult and it is something they aren’t used to.
“By fall, she had canceled her gym membership because it was too expensive. When the hospital urged her to come in for a visit, she said she was busy.”(Hartocollis) Working out, especially for obese people, is challenging physically and mentally. Taking time out of the day to do something difficult that doesn’t lend to results quickly is not carried out by a large number of weight-loss surgery patients.
Teens are easily tempted to over-eat and consume junk foods. “To her dismay, she discovered that "all the fattening foods"--chips, chocolate--went down easily. "Apples and bread are hard," she said. "It's annoying how hungry I was."”(Hartocollis). Easily lured adolescents who have undergone weight-loss surgery often revert back to bad habits of over-eating and eating junk food, especially during times when they are emotionally stressed.
One study shows that nearly eighty-two percent of surgery patients give up on the procedure and regain weight. “Ms. Gofman, who has just turned 20, saw Dr. Sherwinter in November. She had regained not quite half of what she had lost.”(Hartocollis). After giving up on the surgery, patients usually regain their weight and continue their bad habits of not exercising and over-eating, along with the added effects of depression.
The harsh effects of weight-loss surgeries are severe physically and emotionally. A significant amount of teens that failed the weight-loss procedure report feeling depressed in the months afterwards. “Ms. Gofman started to feel judged by some of her friends.” (Hartocollis).
The psychological effects of the weight loss can be worse than even the physical effects. Self-worthlessness and depression have been noted which can very well lead to worse, possibly physical problems.
As has been previously noted, the smaller-sized stomach pouch receives less food, which can cause starving of the body from the amount of nutrients it is used to digesting. “A more critical question is whether surgery can lead to malnutrition, particularly in bypass patients because their shortened digestive tracts absorb fewer nutrients, which could affect bone growth, sexual maturation and other development.”(Sommerfield). Without getting as many nutrients and vitamins that the adolescent’s body may be used to, the surgery may lead to malnourishment, or basically the starving of one’s body because he or she is not consuming enough nutrients.
If dramatic changes don’t occur, the adolescents have been reported to feel that it is impossible for them to lose weight and they are a failure. “She does not want to reveal how much she weighs, but she is fighting constant hunger, and progress is slow.”(Hartocollis). The teens quickly give up if they don’t lose weight fast or the procedure isn’t as easy as they thought.
Teen weight loss surgeries are exceedingly dangerous to an adolescent’s growing and maturing body, and should not be recommended to obese teens except in the most extreme of cases. The lasting results that have been commonly negative affect a developing adolescent’s growing body and mind. Because of the long term effects to the developing of bones, sexual maturity, etc.; weight-loss surgeries for obese adolescents should only recommended in extremely morbid cases.
Maher, Irene. "A Last-Resort Lifesaver." Tampa Bay Times. 26 Nov 2012: A.1. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 03 Apr 2013.
Hartocollis, Anemona. "Young, Obese and in Surgery." New York Times. 08 Jan 2012: A.1. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 03 Apr 2013.
Frankel, Todd C. "Weighing the Risks: For Obese Teens, a Last Resort." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, MO). 07 Mar 2005: A1+. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 09 Apr 2013.
Sommerfeld, Julia. "Teen Weight-Loss Surgery: Is Benefit Worth the Risk?." The Seattle Times (Seattle, WA). 16 Jul 2003: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 09 Apr 2013.
Khan, Amina. "Obese Kids: Should Parents Be Blamed?." Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA). 21 Dec 2009: E.3. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 09 Apr 2013.