Largest safety study on teen weight loss surgery finds few complications

Nov 04, 2013, 12:26 ET from Texas Children's Hospital

HOUSTON, Nov. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In the largest in-depth scientific study of its kind on the safety of teen weight-loss surgery, researchers report few short-term complications for adolescents with severe obesity undergoing bariatric surgery.

The study, published online today in JAMA Pediatrics, is the first to provide much-needed safety data on bariatric surgery for adolescents with severe obesity, a growing health problem in the U.S. and abroad. The findings represent the largest-ever multicenter, prospective study on the safety of weight-loss surgery among adolescents. Texas Children's Hospital, along with lead investigators at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and four other sites around the country, conducted this research funded through a National Institutes of Health grant.

The study was conducted from 2007 to 2012 and involved 242 patients with an average age of 17 and median body mass index (BMI) of 50.5. For reference, a 16-year-old girl of average height with a BMI of 50 has a weight of nearly 300 pounds. All participants in the study suffered from health complications resulting from obesity.

Thomas H. Inge, MD, PhD, the study's principal investigator, and colleagues in Houston, Columbus, Birmingham, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati examined major and minor complications occurring within 30 days of weight-loss surgery. Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery was performed on 66 percent of the study participants, while 28 percent underwent vertical sleeve gastrectomy and another 6 percent underwent adjustable gastric banding. Information on complications was collected 30 days after surgery.

Initial data from the study suggests weight-loss surgery can be offered to adolescents with a reasonable expectation of short-term safety. Seventy-seven percent of study participants showed no post-procedure complications, and an additional 15 percent exhibited only minor complications, such as dehydration. Eight percent of the patients suffered major complications, such as reoperation. There were no deaths.

"These findings are an important first step in providing data on the short-term safety of bariatric surgery in adolescent patients," says Dr. Mary Brandt, director of the Adolescent Bariatric Surgery Program at Texas Children's Hospital and Vice Chair of Education of Baylor College of Medicine's Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery. "We know that these children are suffering from adult-type diseases at a much younger age. This surgery isn't just about weight-loss, but the positive implications it has on the comorbidities that they face as a result of their obesity as well. In fact, in select patients, bariatric surgery can help reduce the severity, and often times eliminate some of these diseases."

Further research is still needed to accurately gauge long-term risks and benefits for adolescents undergoing weight-loss surgery. The Teen Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (Teen-LABS) is currently following these participants to collect this information. 

Obesity threatens the health of millions of children and adolescents, particularly the estimated 4 to 7 percent of youth who are considered severely obese. Over the past decade, approximately 10,000 teenagers have undergone bariatric weight-loss surgery.

The Teen-LABS study included researchers from Texas Children's Hospital, Nationwide Children's Hospital, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the University of Cincinnati and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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Texas Children's Hospital, a not-for-profit organization, is committed to creating a community of healthy children through excellence in patient care, education and research. Consistently ranked among the top children's hospitals in the nation, Texas Children's has recognized Centers of Excellence in multiple pediatric subspecialties including the Cancer and Heart Centers, and operates the largest primary pediatric care network in the country. Texas Children's has completed a $1.5 billion expansion, which includes the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; Texas Children's Pavilion for Women, a comprehensive obstetrics/gynecology facility focusing on high-risk births; and Texas Children's Hospital West Campus, a community hospital in suburban West Houston.  For more information on Texas Children's, go to Get the latest news from Texas Children's by visiting the online newsroom and on Twitter at

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SOURCE Texas Children's Hospital