Weight-loss surgery: The next cure-all for kids?

October 13, 2010

Diabetes, depression, infertility, sleep apnea - just a few of the conditions facing the 190-million obese Americans. Now kids as young as 12 are turning to surgery - not just to help them lose weight - but to save their health.

Used to be Allison Parker couldn't keep up with Jack.

"I was 234 pounds." "I was embarrassed to just walk out the door," said Parker.

Name a diet - she tried it.

"I did the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet; I did fasting I tried Slim Fast bars," said Parker.

Just 16-years-old - she was on the verge of type 2 diabetes - on meds for sleep apnea, acid reflux and depression.

"I knew it wasn't because I was born that way, I made myself that way," she said.

Drastic weight loss surgery came at 17.

"Do I think all kids should be offered bariatric surgery? No. Do I think bariatric surgery should be offered? Absolutely," said Sayeed Ikramuddin, M.D., Professor of Surgery, University of Minnesota Physicians.

Dr. Ikramuddin's Team at the university of Minnesota has operated on 64 kids. in a recent study of 50 teens, half went into a lifestyle fitness program: the others had gastric banding.

Two years later, 12 percent of the lifestyle group lost more than half their body weight. Eighty-four percent of kids in the surgery group did the same.

There are questions: which operation, banding or bypass? Any long term complications? Are teens mature enough to handle this?

"So it's prevention, prevention, prevention, but once you get there you need to call a spade a spade, and you need to operate on these kids if they are psychologically stable," said Dr. Ikramuddin.

Two years after her surgery, Allison dropped 60 pounds, and all those meds.

"I might have been young but I had adults behind me to steer me in the right direction," she said.

Doctors believe the body starts to repair itself as body weight decreases. Another recent study found about 85 to 90 percent of teens maintained their initial weight loss two years after gastric bypass surgery.

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