One of every three children and adolescents in the United States today is either overweight or obese. If you are an adolescent struggling with excess weight, you are not alone.

Weight management options include both medical and surgical pathways. If you have previously tried a medical weight loss program or nutritional counseling and it was not a good fit, you may be recommended as a candidate for bariatric surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery, also called weight-loss surgery, is an effective treatment for people who are struggling to maintain a healthy weight and experiencing other health problems due to their weight. There are two different types of bariatric surgery we perform:

  • Gastric bypass
  • Gastric sleeve

Your doctor will be able to determine which type would be the best option for your individual case. All bariatric surgery changes the way you process food. Bariatric surgery is a tool to help you achieve a healthy weight loss and also, maintain that weight loss,

Bariatric surgery reduces the size of your stomach, limiting the amount of food you can eat. Some bariatric surgeries do this by actually removing a portion of the stomach, while others create a smaller gastric pouch that is separated from the stomach and bypasses a portion of the small intestine causing you to feel full while eating less food.

Some surgeries also use malabsorption to induce weight loss. With gastric bypass, a section of the small intestine is connected to the new gastric pouch, so food bypasses about 30 percent of the small intestine. This reduces the amount of calories your body uses, but also can reduce the amount of nutrients and vitamins your body absorbs from food. Vitamin supplements are usually taken to avoid complications from this malabsorption.

Even though bariatric surgery is an effective treatment for weight loss, the best results are achieved when combined with healthy eating behaviors and regular physical activity. 

What are the risks of bariatric surgery?

It is important to remember that while bariatric surgery is effective in helping you achieve a healthy weight, it is still a major surgery and can carry risks, and 25 to 30 percent of patients will develop some form of complication after the surgery. Fortunately, most of these complications are minor. Some complications can include:

  • Drainage at the surgical site
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Wound infection
  • Bleeding
  • Pneumonia
  • Abscess
  • Gastric leak
  • Ulcer
  • Hernia
  • Gallstones

All abdominal surgeries, including bariatric surgeries, can include more serious, life-threatening risks as well. These can include:

  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Death

Bariatric surgeries that induce malabsorption can lead to deficiencies in nutrients or vitamins. Approximately 50 to 60 percent of patients who receive gastric bypass will develop iron deficiency, 75 percent will develop low vitamin B-12 levels, and 40 percent will develop low folate levels. These deficiencies can lead to anemia, which can be serious. Patients are supplemented with daily iron, multivitamins, B-12 and folate pills, to prevent and treat these complications.

What are the benefits of bariatric surgery?

Having excess weight as a teen or young adult can cause many serious health issues. It also puts you at risk for having excess weight as an adult and experiencing more severe health complications. Adolescent bariatric surgery can help prevent these risks and reverse damage already done by weight- related conditions. Patients who have had bariatric surgery can experience improvement in a wide range of conditions including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Respiratory problems
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • High cholesterol
  • Liver disease
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome

Bariatric surgery can do more than improve your physical health. It can also improve your overall well-being. Benefits of bariatric surgery can include:

  • Maintained healthy weight – Patients who receive bariatric surgery often struggled with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Bariatric surgery combined with healthy nutrition and exercise habits can result in weight loss you can maintain.
  • Fewer medications – As patients lose weight after bariatric surgery, and their weight- related conditions improve, they can often reduce or stop taking certain medications for those conditions.
  • Higher self-esteem – Having good self-esteem is important for the development of a teen or young adult. Bariatric surgery patients often feel better about themselves and gain confidence and self-esteem as they lose the weight.
  • Increased energy – Physical activity is also important in the development of adolescents for promoting lifelong health. After bariatric surgery, patients often find themselves able to take part in activities and participate in physical tasks much more easily than they could before.
  • Higher quality of life – Bariatric surgery can improve many aspects of a teen or young adult’s life. Social, physical, mental, and emotional health can all improve, leading to a higher overall quality of life.

Who qualifies for bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery offers an option for adolescents who have not been able to maintain weight loss or achieve a healthy weight through diet and exercise alone. However, bariatric surgery is not for all patients. To be a candidate for bariatric surgery at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, you must:

  • Be between the ages of 15 ½ and 18
  • Have a BMI of 40 or greater
  • Be recommended as a candidate by our CHANGES team

Take the assessment below to help determine if you would be a good candidate for adolescent bariatric surgery.

Do You Qualify for Bariatric Surgery?

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