General chatter - Your opinion -- weight loss surgery for kids....

02-04-2007, 10:13 PM
Found this article on line -- curious what everyone thinks. I have mixed emotions -- having been overweight as a child I can understand wanting it done, but not sure if this is the best option.
NEW YORK(AP) As the popularity of stomach surgery has skyrocketed among obese adults, a growing number of doctors are asking, "Why not children, too?"

For decades, the number of kids trying weight-loss surgery has been tiny. The operations themselves were risky, with a death rate of about 1 in 50. Children rarely got that fat, and when they did, pediatricians hesitated to put the developing bodies under the knife. Only 350 U.S. kids had such an operation in 2004, according to federal statistics.

But improvements in surgical technique and huge increases in the number of dangerously obese children have begun fueling a change of heart.

A group of four hospitals, led by Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, are starting a large-scale study this spring examining how children respond to various types of weight-loss surgery, including the gastric bypass, in which a pouch is stapled off from the rest of the stomach and connected to the small intestine.

Three more hospitals have approval from the Food and Drug Administration to test how teens fare with a procedure called laparoscopic gastric banding, where an elastic collar installed around the stomach limits how much someone can eat.

The FDA has hesitated to approve the gastric band for children, but surgeons at New York University Medical Center reported in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery this month that the device holds promise.

The 53 boys and girls, aged 13 to 17, who participated in NYU's study shed nearly half their excess weight over 18 months, while suffering relatively minor complications.

Crystal Kasprowicz, of St. James, N.Y., said she lost 100 pounds from her 250-pound frame after having the band installed at age 17.

"I'm a totally different person," she said.

Before the procedure, Kasprowicz said she took medication for a rapid heartbeat and was showing signs of developing diabetes. Every effort she made to stop getting bigger failed. Dieting didn't work, she said. Her heart problems made it hard to exercise. Even walking up stairs was a challenge.

Now, she's off the heart drugs. Her blood-sugar levels are in check. She also feels better about herself.

"I'm very outgoing now," said Kasprowicz. "I hike a lot ... I go to the beach in the summer now. I'm not as self-conscious when I go shopping for clothing."

Similar studies are under way at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago and at the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian, which recently opened a weight-loss surgery center for teens. Doctors there expect to conduct about 50 operations this year.

02-04-2007, 11:03 PM
We are in a very different world these days. I was nearly 300 lbs as a 14 yr old and I think when I started gaining awareness of my food actions and my weight, I would've loved for something to help me lose weight quickly.

I would be worried more about nutrients of teenagers just because as teenagers we don't make the best decisions and if your food is limited anyway, how do you as a parent deal with that? I'm not so sure I'd recommend gastric bypass for a teenager but I think perhaps lapband would be a viable option if it is warranted. I am not happy that I have been overweight all of my remembered life but I am happy that I got the choice on how to deal with my weight loss and deal with the issues of my weight. For me, if I was a teenager, I'm not sure I could've properly made the right decision for myself.

Also, weight gain will happen if they don't deal with the issues that caused them to gain weight in the first place. Psychological counseling as well as helping them maintain their weight loss would be key.

02-04-2007, 11:17 PM
Boy I have such mixed emotions about this. There was a Discovery Health Channel show about a 16 or 17 year old boy who had WLS, and even watching the show, I had such mixed emotions. In one aspect it was a great thing for the young man. He lost a lot of weight and was going back to high school to try to get his diploma (he had dropped out because of his weight). On the other hand, his parents and his siblings felt that he had never tried to lose weight on his own. They felt like he was doing this as an easy out - there words not mine. He wasn't following the doctor's orders eating his protein like he was supposed to. But overall, it improved the quality of his life rather drastically.

Nonetheless, I couldn't see myself seeking this for my child.

02-04-2007, 11:22 PM
Nelie -- I agree with you, the surgery can't fix the problem that caused the child to be overweight in the first place. I do know first hand how horrible it feels to be a teenager and overweight, but I think the medical risks don't warrant the surgery for a child.

Jtammy -- I've seen shows on adults having the surgery who weren't prepared for the consequences after the fact and a teenager I think would be less prepared. As a parent, I question whether I would be able to guide my child either toward something that was not a lifesaving measure.

02-05-2007, 12:09 AM
My opinion? I'm absolutely appalled.

02-05-2007, 12:23 AM
A terrible idea, I think. Kids need to learn to prevent the problem, not just have the problem carved away, to come right back again. My heart goes out to overweight kids, but I don't think surgery is the right way to go. They need to learn to eat right and exercise more .... like all of us who battle the pounds.

02-05-2007, 02:40 AM
I watched an episode of Scientific American Frontiers that showed a small device that is put in via laparascope (think pacemaker) that sends an electronic pulse that controls appetite. They were working on developing this as a solution to help children. I would say something like this or the lapband may be more appropriate than gastric bypass surgery... but still, seems like you should try EVERYTHING before doing this. Especially for a child.

02-05-2007, 09:20 AM
I'm kind of surprised a surgeon would perform weight loss surgery on a child. I agree that the little "pacemaker" appetite suppressant would be better but it's so sad that people even think surgery for a child, instead of trying to help them do it naturally, healthy and with diet and exercise. I also think that even taking your child for surgery is telling them that there is something wrong with them and puts the emphasis on their appearance. I understand the health problems related with obesity, but as a parent I think it's my job to try to keep them active and healthy and hopefully not let them get overweight (like me:( )

02-05-2007, 09:29 AM
Education. I belive education is a better alternative to surgery. Of course Ithink that education should begin BEFORE obesity is a problem. That education should come from school and from HOME. This country is terribly uneducated about nutrition.

Having said that, being an obese child/teenager has got to be incredibly, incredibly difficult. But it is NOT irreversible. I think if a child is willing to undergo surgery, they should be willing to undergo a complete lifestyle change. And if a parent is willing to allow a child to undergo surgery that parent must make every effort to help that child without surgery. It also concerns me that I see many success stories right away with surgery and then they fall right back into old patterns and end up right back where they started from. Surgery is NOT a magic pill. There is still hard work to be done. I think kids and their parents are not fully aware of this.

Of course every case is different and every family must decide for themselves what is best.

02-05-2007, 09:31 AM
IMHO surgery is a tool, not a cure. Kids should be taught and they need to learn what is healthy eating first before even considering WLS because you can gain weight even after having WLS. Good habits are easier formed and stick with you when your younger than when your 40+.

Unless the child has other serious medical issues I don't think surgery is a good idea.

02-05-2007, 09:40 AM
This is a really hard one. I have a 14 yr. old DD that has struggled a little with her weight. (about 15-20 lbs.). I have taught her how to read food labels, prepared her food and snacks to take to school with her, exercised with her, eliminated junk food from the house (except some low-cal snack food for her), taken her to the doctor for his help and advice. Done everything I know to do to help her because she truly wants to lose any extra lbs. before it gets further out of hand. I really don't think I could ever agree to my child being put at this risk by having a WLS. But, if her health was truly affected by the weight, I might think differently. It's impossible to know for sure, until you've walked "in someone else's shoes".

02-05-2007, 12:23 PM
When I read the thread title I thought smaller 10, 11, 12.

Surgery for a 17 year old? I think that is pretty close enough to an adult. 17 year olds can consent to other surgeries. Perhaps once adult height is achieved, and lifestyle measures have not worked, then it might be considered. I also realize that for many who choose WLS, they have spent years struggling with the lifestyle measures before deciding upon sx. Has a 17 year old had years to try food and movement modification?

If it is a last resort, teens probably haven't spent enough time on the other resorts.

I guess I am saying, I don't really know!

02-05-2007, 01:02 PM
Have to say, I think I agree with Midwife . . . I just don't know. I think surgery should be a last resort for everyone. They should try everything else first. This is especially true for the younger people . . . IMHO, at 17 or so, they can't possibly have tried enough alternatives yet.

02-05-2007, 02:25 PM
Not too sure...I think first off that the surgery wouldn't be needed if the parents would do something before the child got to a point where they thought they needed surgery. I'm talking like before reaching the teen years.

02-05-2007, 04:45 PM
I have to say that allowing morbidly obese children have weight loss surgery is highly unethical. Not only are we saying "well, if you get fat, just have surgery", we are not anywhere near fixing the problem.
Being a morbidly obese child is not just the child's problem. It is a family problem. We can take the weight away with surgery, but it doesn't fix a damn thing - especially when the child comes from a family of food pushers, is around relatives who are uneducated about nutrition, or has a family that just doesn't care what they eat. They will only get fat again - especially if they don't understand the concept of lifestyle changes; and most don't.

Having this surgery for children is just riddled with complications waiting to happen. What child only wants to eat a few ounces per meal and it must be healthy at that... no more candy, no more junk food... practically forever. They would be at high risk for Dumping syndrome and malnutrition - especially given the mentality of the typical teenager (I would argue that normal weight teenagers suffer from malnutrition, just because of all the sugar and fat and lack of vitamins/well balanced meals).

I don't even like the idea of weight loss surgery for adults and I think the medical community needs to be more selective in who gets the surgery as it is... but it shouldn't be offered to children until all avenues have geniunely been exhausted.

02-05-2007, 08:11 PM
It sickens me

Yes 17 is borderline adult. But I dont think ANYONE should get the surgery until some serious therapy, counseling etc has been done.

To think that a teenager could have this surgery that will affect the way they have to eat for the rest of their lives ...makes me shudder.

If they are that obese at that age, there are issues beyond what surgery can fix, and if those issues arent dealt with first you are just asking for a lifetime of trouble.

02-05-2007, 09:07 PM
Coming from a family where the problem was definitely with me and NOT with the rest of my family, I can say that sometimes despite what parents try to do, the child will find a way if they want to eat. I've been at least slightly overweight ever since I was around 7, and I know that my mother tried everything she could. She didn't buy junk food, she encouraged snacking on healthy veggies if I was hungry and had already had enough, etc. However, I would sneak food when she wasn't looking and get fat off of the "healthy" food in the house (it all still has calories.. heh). I could even say that it went so far as to be a defiant action whenever she got desperate and started locking up the pantry.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I can understand how some teenagers and their parents could be frustrated enough to follow through with WLS. Personally, though, I think that if that route is taken, lap-band surgery would be the better option. Gastric bypass would NOT be the way to go, considering it is a lot less forgiving/reversible.

02-06-2007, 01:05 AM
I see the success that families have with their kids on shows like National Body Challenge and Honey We're killing the kids... and I wonder if people really would put in that kind of effort before trying to get their kids surgery.... i would like to think so, but I do wonder.

02-06-2007, 07:20 AM
My opinion: unless there is a severe, life-threatening weight-related health issue (and I don't mean a higher risk of heart disease at age 45...I mean "you'll die in less than a year if you don't have this surgery" severe), then optional surgeries for children are an absolute nono.

I was always a fat teen. I was over 200 pounds before I even got to high school. I'm positive I was over 250 by the time I graduated high school (I think I was about 265 by the time I started my first semester of college). No one can tell me anything about the life of "a fat kid" that I haven't already experienced firsthand--the days of coming home crying because you feel left out, unattractive, etc.; the days of having to decide how to deal with others making fun of you; the days in gym class where you're doing state physical fitness testing, and you know you can't do any of it, and you're horribly embarassed; the days of watching your friends share clothes and go shopping together in the "popular" stores while you sit alone on the is HARD. It is lonely, it is frustrating, and it at times feels hopeless.

But I still would never have had the surgery. I was told I was pre-diabetic around age 16. I have knee caps that are shifting outwards from years of playing softball with my oversized body. i didn't have a real boyfriend until I was 21 years old. And yet, I still never would have had the surgery. It's just plain wrong for someone so young. I even think there are too many adults who jump into it and too many doctors who allow them to do so. I'm 24 right now and have been overweight for about 20 years, but I still don't think I'd be ready to have a voluntary surgery. I had to have surgery once to remove multiple (including one that was 10 inches in diameter) ovarian cysts removed, and the recovery from that required surgery was ****--why would I ever opt to go through that again? And I certainly wouldn't want my (or anyone else's) child to have to go through it, either.

02-06-2007, 10:03 AM
Jilly, you brought back a memory for me from gym class. They had those days where they tested your body fat using calipers on the upper arm. Those calipers didn't even fit my upper arm because I was already nearly 300 lbs at that time.

And regarding parents not doing anything, I will say that my mom tried. I went to doctors about my weight for over 10 years. I saw nutritionists, I saw doctors, I went to the gym, I was actually a pretty active kid, but I ate too much and maybe an undiagnoses PCOS didn't help. I went to one doctor for over a year, every week taking a food diary. I think I lost 20 lbs in that period over a year. She also tried to encourage me by saying that if I lost the weight, my insurance would pay to remove the excess skin. I was even part of a track team for a couple years. I'd do the running drills with them but I was shot put because I was too slow for running.

At one period of time, I was exercising 2 hours each day and not eating very much, I ended up losing 30 lbs but then it finally got to me and I gained the weight back.

The life of a fat kid does suck and I am grateful that I "only" gained 60 lbs after high school and during high school I didn't gain any weight.

02-07-2007, 09:51 PM the girl in the article, I am nearly 250, 16 years old, and over 100 pounds overweight.

My highest weight that I know of in my life has been 255 pounds and I'm 5'5". I am about 246 now, which isn't that much of a difference...

If I had the choice of the surgery and the lap-band...I would say NO!

My reasons for this are because...I am somewhat a more mature teenager than most teens my age, and I would abuse that lap-band. If I got it and lost a bunch of weight, it would be because I was starving myself...and I would never get the right amount of nutrients. The fact of the matter is...most teens DO NOT know what healthy eating is...and most wouldn't care for it even if they did know what they were doing to their bodies with all the fast food and processed foods.

It's simply of any kind is a tool, not a cure. You can always gain after you get the surgery, and I think it is a pity that surgeries have to be done on kids my age and younger. It's not because they can't eat better or's because the family isn't adapting, there are multiple temptations of going off the path, and the truth is they don't WANT to eat better...because they don't understand how much better they'd feel and look with eating healthier foods.

I understand how large we can get by eating as we did/still do...but surgeries of any kind don't solve anything...and going on a healthy diet, learning self control, fixing those MENTAL problems with the child is far better than a band or surgery.

Eating problems are usually very mental and emotional. If we fix those problems, the physical will follow and help us improve all those aspects of our life.

Today...maybe for the first time...we had pizza from Dominoes in the kitchen and I went into my room and said to myself, "That doesn't look very good at all. Very greasy and I don't want that." So I made a little pizza from the freezer and when was cooked, (and mind you it was many many calories lower than the fast food), I said: "Well, this doesn't look very good either! It looks disgusting!" And I took a bite of it, figuring that I eat anything and like it, and it was just like "drinking a bottle of grease". And I said, "I could eat all of this...I could...But I really don't want to because it looks both bad and it tastes bad...and there's no reason I should eat this when I can eat something that looks and tastes better and is surely better for ME!"

I felt very proud...I DO have self control...and I am enjoying my soup very slowly and am indulging in more because I get more for my calories.

And it's the first step of self control...and as a 250 pound girl with past issues of binging...I am NOT hopeless, and I *CAN* change my eating habits one step of a time.

I would rather earn my weight loss through my own efforts than to not appreciate my weight loss because I got it the easy way.

I even have a aunt who almost died from Gastric Bypass Surgery...if anyone thinks I am being presumptuous. But I simply must say to leave those surgeries to the people who intend to change their lifestyles sincerely, and realize what they are getting themselves into.

And a teenager simply doesn't realize the importance of it.

Self control and moderation are the greatest tools we have for ourselves. I personally think those will make me the 130 I wish to be...even if the rest of world around us are coming at us with even worse foods to have.

02-07-2007, 11:06 PM
Well put, and from a teenager which makes it even better. :) I think you said it all...

02-08-2007, 12:11 AM
I do believe that WLS should be available, and heck there might even be a few extreme cases where it could be appropriate for some people under 18, but it seems that WLS and cosmetic surgeries for adults and children are a lot more common with a lot less consideration than ever before.

My mother-in-law brings up WLS for my husband and I almost every time I talk to her. My husband is dead set against it in principle, and I am so susceptible to staph infections as it is, that I would not consider it for myself either. She doesn't seem to understand, despite the fact that I explain it to her every time, that it is dangerous surgery, and that with my respiratory and immune problems I would be an extremely high risk patient. Being very fat can be miserable, but not so much that I'd rather be dead.