Update: Our resident mental health expert, Brooke Randolph, LMHC, weighs in on the topic in a featured story at Yahoo Shine: Teen Weight Loss Surgery Unhealthy for Many Reasons.
There is some alarming news coming from a new study: Overweight teenagers are undergoing laparoscopic gastric band surgery in increasing numbers, even though the procedure is not approved for anyone under 18 years old.
Researchers examined a database of bariatric surgeries in California, and found that gastric band operations increased seven-fold from 2005 to 2023. They also found that 590 people between 13- and 20-years-old underwent gastric band or gastric bypass surgery during the study period.
Another point noted was that 93 percent of the weight-reduction surgeries were performed in hospitals that are not affiliated with nationally recognized children’s hospitals.
While “manufacturers have touted the banding procedure as less invasive, many [medical] centers have abandoned gastric banding because of poor long-term results,” say the study’s authors.
That said, it’s not all gloom and doom from the study’s experts. Some believe that the surgeries are necessary. But at the same time, some are expressing concerns that teens are taking risks while looking for a quick fix.
“These operations clearly help some people, but they’re trying to sell it as a solution for everybody,” says Dr. Edward Livingston, a gastric surgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern School of Medicine. “If you follow the rules it works. But most people who get to be 400 pounds aren’t very good at following rules.”
Weight-loss surgery can come with serious complications. There may be infections, leaks, respiratory arrest, blood clots, or even death. But beyond the physical risks, some experts point out that teens aren’t emotionally ready for such a drastic change in their relationship with food.
Gastric bypass surgery, which runs in the neighborhood of $17,000 to have done, routes food away from much of the stomach, but the study found that fewer teens were opting for that procedure, and signing up for gastric banding instead.
Gastric banding surgery is when a surgeon places an adjustable silicone band around the upper part of the stomach. After banding, the stomach can only hold about an ounce of food.
(via: Yahoo! Health)