June 8, 2023

Study: Weight-loss surgical procedures among teens on the rise

Editor's note

According to a research letter, titled “Use of metabolic and bariatric surgery among US youth” and published by JAMA Pediatrics on May 30, “more young people between the ages of 10 and 19 are undergoing weight-loss surgeries,” Chief Healthcare Executive June 1 reports. This emerging trend has prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to call for “more access to the procedure for kids and teens struggling with obesity.”

Among the findings, the study showed:

  • Metabolic and bariatric surgeries rose significantly in the first 2 years of the pandemic.
  • In 2021, 1,349 youths between the ages of 10 and 19 underwent metabolic and bariatric surgery, a 19% increase compared to 2020.
  • Among adults, 207,834 weight-loss surgeries were performed in 2021, a 24% increase from 2020.
  • In 2021, weight-loss surgical procedures increased from 182 to 258 among Black youths; from 179 to 273 among Hispanic youths; from 459 to 518 among White youths.

The authors noted a sharp rise in severe obesity among young people in recent years, from 5.6% in 2015 to 6.5% in 2018, or about 4.8 million young people. Hispanic young people saw the sharpest rise in obesity rates (10.7% from 2017 to 2018), followed by Black youths (10.2% from 2017 to 2018).

While some physicians have been “reluctant” to recommend these procedures to the pediatric patient population “due to the risk of complications and the fact that the procedure can’t be reversed,” the article noted, Sarah Messiah, one of the authors and a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, told Time: “The data at this point is overwhelming that it’s effective. It helps these adolescents lose weight. It helps them get healthier. Why should we wait?”


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