The number of adolescents being treated surgically for obesity doubled between 2010 and 2017, according to new research. But minority adolescents – who have a higher rate of obesity – are less likely to get weight loss surgery, according to the study published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The study analyzed data for 9,014 patients ages 12 to 19 who had metabolic and bariatric surgery from 2010 to 2017. Overall, the researchers found that 4.62 adolescent patients per 100,000 received metabolic and bariatric surgery in 2017, up from 2.29 patients per 100,000 in 2010. More than three-quarters of patients were female – a statistic that held steady through the study period.
The researchers found that in 2017, 45% of patients were white, 14.6% were Black and 26% were Hispanic. The proportions conflict with obesity rates for children ages 2 to 19 in these groups: 25.6% of Black children are obese, 24.2% of Hispanic children are obese, and 16.1% of white children are obese.
For patients with severe obesity, the procedures are life-changing, study co-author Baddr Shakhsheer, MD, a pediatric surgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri, told Today .
“These patients not only benefit medically and physiologically, but in terms of their quality of life — it increases dramatically,” he said. “Obesity is already wreaking havoc on these children, and I think that we’re recognizing it now earlier. The sooner we intervene, the better quality and longevity of life we can provide for these patients.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that “weight-loss surgery is one of the only evidence-based, safe, and effective ways shown to help preteens and teens struggling with severe obesity.” The organization says the most common procedure is the gastric sleeve and gastric bypass, which helps people lose about 30% of their body weight and keep it off. The organization said the procedure is not used as much as it should be.
“It is imperative that healthcare providers work with families, especially the most vulnerable and high-risk, to expand equitable access to comprehensive, multidisciplinary, pediatric-specific bariatric programs,” the authors wrote. “The current data only underscores the point that obesity-related health disparities disproportionately impact minority groups, and that said minority groups are still less likely to receive surgical weight loss treatment than their white counterparts.”
Pediatrics: “National Trends in Pediatric Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery: 2010–2017.”
Today: “Weight-loss surgery helps teens with obesity, but many still miss out.”