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National and World

January 25, 2013

Is weight-loss surgery the right answer for overweight teenagers?

Some researchers say teens suffer lasting damage from being severely obese

(Continued)

“One of the most important factors that parents of potential bariatric patients should consider is the fact that the process of surgical weight reduction for adolescents is a family affair,” said Dr. Michalsky in an  interview with ConsumerAffairs.

“Parents have a huge role in helping their child achieve optimal weight reduction since, in most instances; they are primarily responsible for overseeing the patient’s nutritional intake and associated behaviors.”

Dr. Michalsky also says that until now, there haven’t been many studies on the relationship between cardiovascular disease and childhood obesity.

“While there have been reports of indirect measures of cardiovascular risk in the severely obese adolescent population, including studies demonstrating the presence of several biomarkers of cardiovascular disease (i.e. elevated serum insulin level, cholesterol and triglycerides), only a few studies have shown direct evidence of cardiac structural and functional abnormalities in this population.”

And because there haven’t been many of these studies conducted on teen obesity, weight-loss surgery and how it affects the heart, many parents may not associate teen obesity with organ damage, and also may not realize what an impact weight-loss surgery can have.

Cardiovascular abnormalities

“We were initially quite surprised to learn that a certain proportion of patients appear to have cardiovascular abnormalities identified using cardiac MRI," Dr. Michalsky said. “However, it is important to realize that the results presented in the current study are quite preliminary and require additional large-scale investigation before more reliable conclusions can be drawn.”

“I believe that the important take-home message is that obesity affects many important organ systems which support the need for effective intervention designed to improve and extend the life of their child.”

Dr. Michalsky also says bariatric surgery should never be performed on teens solely for cosmetic reasons; each teen who qualifies is suffering physical damage, not just an image problem.

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