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Three Things You Didn’t Know About Adolescent Bariatric Surgery

Lehigh Valley Health Network is the only health network in the region to offer this life-changing procedure for teens ages 16 and older

Richard Boorse, MD, offers adolescent bariatric surgery for teens 16 and older.

Obesity is growing worldwide. Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) bariatric surgeon Richard Boorse, MD, with LVPG General, Bariatric and Trauma Surgery, says the increase in adolescent obesity is a serious, long-term public health challenge.

“Obesity is epidemic,” Boorse says. The reasons are complex, and while obesity can be related to poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles, it’s often caused by factors outside the person’s control – especially when it comes to teens.

As such, LVHN now offers bariatric surgery for teens ages 16 and older. The program is in partnership with Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital and Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence.

Here are three things you may not know about bariatric surgery:

1. Bariatric surgery is more than just weight loss

Weight-loss surgery is a tool, not a quick fix. Permanent changes in lifestyle and diet must be incorporated to achieve success. But for adolescents living with obesity, it can change their lives.

Obesity can a have a negative impact on an adolescent’s physical and mental health, according to Boorse.

Teens living with obesity are at risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Other health concerns include sleep apnea and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In addition to medical concerns, many teens living with obesity have a negative body images and low self-esteem and experience bullying.

2. Criteria for surgery are the same for teens as adults

Weight-loss surgery candidates have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40, or a BMI 35 or greater if accompanied by an obesity-related health condition such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension or sleep apnea.

Adolescents are typically recommended for gastric sleeve weight-loss surgery, which works by reducing the size of the stomach. Some teens benefit from gastric bypass (also called Roux-en-Y) surgery. This option, which restricts food intake and prevents the body from absorbing calories, also helps manage acid reflux. Bariatric surgeons work with patients’ families to choose the right option for their unique needs.

Both bariatric surgery options are proven to result in significant weight loss. They also resolve high blood pressure in 70 percent of patients and type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea in 80 percent.

“The primary focus of the adolescent bariatric program is improving the long-term health of teens struggling with obesity,” Boorse says. “But the added benefits to self-esteem and life experiences are immeasurable.”

Did you know?

Only 5% of people can lose 10% of their body weight and keep it off. Your health partner is here to help.

As part of LVHN’s program, our behavioral health specialists work with teens on skills and strategies to help attain long-term weight-loss success. This includes helping adolescents to address emotional eating issues and manage challenging eating environments to provide the support needed to live a more active lifestyle.

3. Bariatric medicine also is for people who struggle with traditional dieting

The LVHN Weight Management Center offers a physician-monitored weight-loss program. After enrolling in the program, teens attend required pre-operative nutrition and counseling classes.

“Virtual classes are an option,” Boorse says. “You decide what’s right for you, whether that be virtual or in-person. It’s so convenient.”

Boorse notes the program helps teens learn a new way of eating where they control their diet, rather than their diet controlling them. The multi-disciplinary care helps with everything from determining if surgery is right for your teen to offering guidance on insurance requirements and even providing support after surgery to help your teen maintain a healthy weight and diet.

Adolescent Bariatric Surgery

Adolescent Bariatric Surgery (Gastric Sleeve)

Take the next step

Talk with your teen’s primary care physician to see if adolescent bariatric surgery is right for them. To schedule a consultation with a nurse navigator, call 888-402-LVHN (5846).

Learn more about bariatric surgery for teens

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