Obesity surgery and children

This is still seen as a contentious issue. Previously it had considered unnecessary and even dangerous for children to undergo obesity surgery. However, as the number of obese children continues to rise it has become an important issue.

Diet and exercise under careful supervision are still the preferred option and this must be tried at first before even considering surgery. Surgery is not recommended for very young children but for those entering into their teens, say 13 upwards then it has become an option.

The option of surgery needs to be weighed up against long term obesity health risks to the child. Failure to act upon this can mean that the child is faced with the very real possibility of developing Type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related conditions that were once the preserve of the middle aged.

The criteria for obesity surgery state that the minimum age for a procedure is 18 years of age yet there are always exceptions and each case needs to be judged on its individual merit.

In the US surgery has been performed on patients who are aged less than 18 with positive results. There is only one procedure that is suitable for children and teenagers for that matter which is the gastric band. It is safe, very few complications and reversible.

Should children have obesity surgery?

This is still open to debate. There are doctors who feel that this is inappropriate yet there are others who regard this as a viable option. This does require careful consideration due to the age of the patient but provided the child is in good health then there is no reason not to do so. At present only a small minority of children are likely to be considered for obesity surgery.

The most suitable procedure for children is that of gastric banding.

Arguments for obesity surgery for children

The main argument for surgery is that of preventing any long term health risks. If steps are not taken to address the child’s obesity problem then this will follow them into adolescence and eventually adulthood. The other problem is that they become susceptible to a wide range of obesity-related illnesses which can be chronic and in many cases, life threatening.

Another issue is that of the child experiencing social problems such as anxiety, depression, isolation, bullying and so on. Children can be very cruel and will single out a child who they perceive to be different. If your child is overweight or obese than they are likely to be a target for the bullies. They may also find that they are unable to join in on many activities and have trouble making friends.

Unfortunately, there is a stigma to being obese and this what your child can face: being stigmatised by his/her peer group and society in general.

We are increasingly hearing about children developing the types of diseases that only affected you once you reached middle aged. This could even be the generation that is outlived by its parents.

So, steps need to be taken now in order to prevent this. Diet and exercise as the obvious choice and if this fails then surgery should be considered but only as a last resort.

There are risks with surgery but children and young people do tend to recover much more quickly than adults. What you may need to be asking yourself is that are the consequences if I don’t?

Arguments against obesity surgery for children

It is seen as unnecessary and too risky for children although they do tend to be more resilient than adults. Some experts feel that this should not be carried out until the child has reached 18 but this view is now being challenged by many others.

All surgery is risky and this includes obesity surgery but these risks are low.

Whether your child is suitable or not, he/she will have to be put onto a special anti-obesity programme which is designed to encourage him/her to adopt good habits for the future. This includes planning a healthy diet, taking exercise and changing behaviour.

What happens next?

If your child is obese then your first port of call is your GP who will discuss this further with you. He/she can then refer you to a specialist or paediatrician.

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