It is reported that since 1963 obesity rates in children and teens have steadily risen. It is currently estimated that 17% of children and teens are obese, a five fold increase in comparison to the rate of 4.5% in 1963. While why and how this has happened to America’s children are important questions to explore, of greater urgency is the question of what to do. One option that has become increasingly more popular remains somewhat controversial: bariatric (weight loss) surgery.
According to experts, this type of surgery should only be considered for morbidly obese teens who have tried to lose weight in more traditional ways for a minimum of 6 months. In addition, professionals urge that the rational for such procedures should be based on health concerns. Candidates considered for such a drastic approach often suffer from type 2 diabetes and/or sleep apnea as well as respiration difficulties. In addition, professionals must consider a child’s emotional readiness for such a procedure as well as their commitment to make the lifestyle changes necessary in order to ensure ongoing success post surgery. As with any surgery of course, the procedure itself does not come without risks. Overall, research indicates that teens face similar risks as adults. This suggest that younger candidates are at least not at higher risk due to age.
So how does a parent weigh the benefits and risks in order to make the best decision for their child?
Here are some considerations:
1.) First and foremost, your teen needs to be on board with the surgery. While this may seem obvious, I can assure you that it is not so uncommon for a parent to insist that their child have the procedure. Very understandable when you acknowledge the life threatening concerns that come along with morbid obesity.
2.) Make sure both you and your teen are fully educated regarding the benefits and risks of the procedure. Specifically, your teen should understand that he will need to commit to a lifestyle change post surgery. In addition, it is important to be fully informed about the procedure that is best for your child. There are several procedures currently available, some more invasive than others. A competent surgeon will work with you and your teen to determine the procedure best for him.
3.) Seek more than one opinion regarding your teen’s candidacy for the procedure. As mentioned above, the procedure itself comes with risks. In order to be sure the surgery is the best option for your teen, seek out the opinion of at least two professionals. This will affirm that whatever you decide is the most appropriate decision for your child.
4.) Make the lifestyle changes post surgery a family affair. In order to ensure continued success it is important to provide a home environment which encourages healthy food choices and promotes exercise. By engaging the whole family you send the message that you are all determined to live a healthy lifestyle.
5.) Create a strong circle of support for your teen both pre and post surgery. In addition to friends and family, it is important that you provide your teen with a team of professionals to ensure her ongoing success. Consider working with a nutritionist, a trainer at the local gym and, a counselor to help your teen manage the thoughts and feelings that come along with such a drastic life change.
No matter what you choose to do one thing is clear, intervention no can ensure that your morbidly obese teen can live a long healthy life free of unnecessary health issues.
NIDDK. Bariatric Surgery for Severe Obesity. http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/gastric.htm