Gastric bypass surgery offers better health outcomes to severely obese teenagers

Severely obese adolescents derive significantly better health outcomes compared to similarly overweight adults after weight loss surgery, even though both groups of patients achieved similar weight loss, reports a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study compared data from two long-term longitudinal studies - the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (LABS) and the Teen-Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (Teen-LABS). When compared to adult in the LABS study, severely obese teenagers in Teen LABS showed greater reversal of type 2 diabetes (35 percent more) and high blood pressure (51 percent more) even though their weight loss was similar (26 vs 29 percent in adults).

Dr. Mary Brandt is a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital and Professor of Surgery, Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. She founded and has directed the Adolescent Bariatric Surgery Center at Texas Children’s hospital.  Along with the other members of the Teen LABS consortium,  she has been a co-author on multiple studies from the Teen-LABS consortium including the current study, which was led by Thomas H. Inge, M.D., Ph.D., chief of Pediatric Surgery and director of the Bariatric Surgery Center at Children’s Hospital of Colorado.

The Teen-LABS consortium is made up of six clinical centers (Texas Children’s Hospital, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Alabama and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) and a data coordinating center. It was established in 2007 and is the only multicenter, federally sponsored national study on adolescent bariatric surgery. The ongoing study has successfully retained patients enrolled since 2007 with continuous follow-up of these patients currently at 12 years.

Extreme obesity affects 4-6 million adolescents in the U.S. and has been linked to severe chronic health complications. This study suggests that physicians should consider weight loss surgery as an option to reduce excessive body weight for adolescents with, or at high risk for, diabetes, hypertension and other co-morbidities of extreme obesity, since the outcomes appear to better than if surgery is postponed until adulthood. According to Dr. Brandt, “Adolescent bariatric surgery is an important adjunct for treating the obesity epidemic in adolescents. These results help us better guide pediatricians, families and patients in making the best decisions for morbidly obese adolescents.” She went on to add, “I am proud to have been a part of this very important study, which helps to make ethically sound and medically safe decisions for this particularly vulnerable patient population.”