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Quick Dose: Can Children Have Weight Loss Surgery?

Obesity is a growing epidemic among children in the United States. In fact, the percentage of children who are obese has more than tripled since the 1970s.

This can have long-term effects on your child’s health, including increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, breathing problems, anxiety and depression.

Surgical treatment is a viable option for kids who have not shown improvement or success with diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes. In addition to achieving long-term weight control, bariatric surgery has been shown to improve a number of obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. Having surgery now can help your child avoid long-term effects of obesity in the future.

In order to have bariatric surgery, your child needs to meet certain qualifications:

  • Body mass index (BMI) in the 95th percentile or greater
  • Lack of success in a supervised medical weight loss program
  • Obesity-related conditions
  • Ability to comply with rigorous post-operative guidelines

Above all, your child needs to understand, and agree to, the procedure. This is extremely important, as this decision should not be made lightly. Weight loss surgery is a complex procedure that has a recovery time of three to five weeks and requires a willingness to stick to lifestyle changes. Your child will need to change their eating habits and follow a strict diet to ensure they are meeting their nutritional needs.

Every child is unique, so each case must be considered on an individual basis. Consult your child’s pediatrician to see if they are an appropriate candidate.

– Ann O’Connor, MD, Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Pediatric Surgery