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More Teens Opting For Gastric Band Surgery, Though FDA Approval Lacking

American teenagers, the newest demographic to be hit by the obesity epidemic in the country, are increasingly looking to weight loss surgery as a way to eliminate those excess pounds.

According to a new study, there has been a sharp rise in the number of teens who are choosing Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding (LAGB) as a weight loss option, even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the procedure for obese people under the age of 18. However, the statistics on the rate of Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding among teens show a nearly seven-fold rise in the procedure from 2005 to 2007.

The study was based on a review of the health records of patients in California under the age of 21, who had bariatric surgery between 2005 and 2007. The results revealed that 590 adolescents (ages 13 to 20) had opted to have weight loss surgery, choosing either the Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding (LAGB) or Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (LRYGB). A total of 86 hospitals were involved in the study group.
A number of characteristics were observed in the study patients:

  • 106 patients (18%) were younger than 18
  • Female adolescents represented the majority of the patients (78%)
  • Only 43% of the overweight adolescents were girls, but this group accounted for 78% of the bariatric surgery patients overall
  • 28% of overweight teens and young adults were white adolescents, but this group accounted for 65% of the bariatric surgery patients in total
  • 52% of the overweight adolescents were Hispanic, but this group accounted for only 21% of the total bariatric surgery patients

During the period when the study was conducted, the amount of young people having weight loss surgery stayed consistent; however, there was a noticeable difference in the types of procedures chosen by the adolescents.

It was revealed that adolescents preferred to have the gastric band procedure, rather than have gastric bypass surgery. The researchers pointed out that the increasingly widespread advertising for Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding coincided with the rise in the use of Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding among teens. Advertising also could be linked to the popularity of gastric banding among overweight adults.
Other study findings revealed:
  • Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding procedures increased from .3 per 100,000 to 1.5 per 100,000
  • Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass procedures decreased from 3.8 per 100,000 to 2.7 per 100,000
  • There was a low (1%) rate of major in-hospital complications
  • Of the Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding patients, 4.7% had a band revision or removal within 1 year
  • Of the Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass patients, 2.9% needed revisional surgery

Not all people who are overweight are good candidates for bariatric surgery, and the final medical approval is based on BMI and the likelihood of developing obesity-related illnesses in the future.

It was not clear to researchers whether adolescents selected for the study met the patient criteria for bariatric surgery. Ultimately, the researchers recommended that long-term studies be conducted to determine the effectiveness and safety of weight loss surgery for adolescents.


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