Bariatric surgery may be appropriate for some obese teenagers when regular weight loss attempts have failed and medical problems persist. UW Medicine and Seattle Children's have partnered together to offer a multidisciplinary team approach to help teens and their families determine whether bariatric surgery is the right option for them.
In general, weight loss surgery is for teens who:
- Have a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher with diabetes or 40 or higher otherwise.
- Are 15 or older and physically and emotionally mature and healthy enough for surgery.
- Have significant medical problems related to their obesity, such as diabetes, sleep apnea, increased brain pressure, or high cholesterol.
Weight-loss surgery is not a quick fix or an "easy way out." It's hard work: the teen will need to eat in a different way for the rest of their life. Doctors recommend surgery only for those who have the motivation and commitment to make lifelong changes, and the support of their family to help them do so.
All candidates for bariatric surgery are referred into Seattle Children's Adolescent Wellness Clinic. Teens who meet the criteria for surgery will join a weight management program and receive care from a medical provider, a nutritionist, a social worker, and a fitness specialist.
The final step is an evaluation by a gastroenterologist, a psychologist, and members of the UW Medicine bariatric surgery team. Patients who qualify for surgery will then work with a nutritionist to start a very low-calorie, high-protein diet.
There are two approaches to bariatric surgery:
- Restriction limits the amount of food a person can eat by reducing the size of the stomach.
- Diversion lets food "skip" part of the intestinal tract so fewer calories are absorbed by the body.
Surgery is performed at the University of Washington Medical Center, with long-term follow-up care at Seattle Children's Hospital.