Bariatric Surgery Not Just for Adults Now


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Weight loss surgery has helped American men and women fight morbid obesity for years. But bariatric operations have not been available to obese teens … until now. That meant teenagers waging the same fight against life-threatening obesity were left without a powerful option.

Now doctors are calling it a game changer for overweight kids.

Her weight has been her nightmare ever since Micaela Chapa can remember.

“I would wear dark, baggy clothes because I just didn’t like how I felt and I tried everything to lose weight my entire life. I was in weight watchers when I was 9 years old.” Chapa shared.

Co-captain of her water polo team, Chapa fought off oncoming pounds with any and every diet. No luck.

By 17 she weighed 350, was pre-diabetic and suffered sleep apnea and high blood pressure. Desperate she asked her doctor about weight loss surgery.

Matias Bruzoni, MD, FACS, an Assistant Professor of Surgery and Program Director Pediatric Surgery Fellowship at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford said “She was one of those patients that was super motivated from the get-go and that shows you that once you get to a certain level, no matter how motivated you are, all other ways of losing weight are going to be inefficient.”

Adults usually under go full gastric bypass surgery, but teens getting weight loss surgery most often will turn to less invasive laparoscopic sleeve surgery called gastrectomy where up to 75 percent of a patient’s stomach is removed.

“These patients actually don’t have much of an appetite after surgery and that helps with this whole recovery,” said Dr. Bruzoni.

Chapa has lost 165 pounds and has kept it off since her surgery four years ago by following a strict diet and eating small meals every four hours.

Chapa explained, “I was no longer shrinking down, hiding myself. I was able to be this effervescent, boisterous person I’ve always wanted to be.”

And Chapa is not looking back.

To be eligible, teens have to have a body mass index, or BMI, of 35 or higher, have diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. Those over 40 BMI may qualify without the additional conditions. But because this surgery requires lifestyle changes too not every obese teen qualifies.

Contributors to this news report include: Tana Castro-Boysen, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Rusty Reed, Videographer.

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REPORT #2458

BACKGROUND: Since the 1970’s, the number of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled. Today, about one in five school-aged children is obese. A widely used screening tool for measuring both obesity and overweight is body mass index, or BMI. The preference for measuring children and young adults (ages 2–20) is the BMI percentile, as it takes into account they are still growing at different rates. Health professionals use growth charts to see whether a child’s weight falls into a healthy range for their height, age, and sex. There can be immediate and long-term impacts on physical, social, and emotional health with childhood obesity. There is higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and risk factors for heart disease. Obese children are more likely to be bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers and are more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem. They are also more likely to be an obese adult, which is linked to serious conditions and diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and several types of cancer.


TREATMENT IN TEENS: Obesity is among the easiest medical conditions to recognize but most difficult to treat. Unhealthy weight gain resulting from poor diet and lack of exercise is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year. Overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults unless they adopt and maintain healthier patterns of eating and exercise. Generally, a child is not considered obese until the weight is at least 10 percent higher than what is recommended for their height and body type. For obese teens, especially the severely obese, simply trying to eat less and exercise more doesn’t always work. Doctors are now turning to weight loss surgery in teens. It is costly and does have treatment risks, but studies in adults have found that it has long-term health benefits. While the number of severely obese children and teens has grown over the last decade, the number undergoing weight loss surgery each year has averaged about 1,000.

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NEW OPTIONS: There are several surgery options when it comes to weight loss. One type becoming more popular in teens is gastric sleeve surgery, also known as sleeve gastrectomy. In this surgery, part of the stomach is removed and the surgeon makes a narrow tube or “sleeve” out of the remaining stomach. Following the operation, a person eats less, feels full sooner, and is less hungry. Gastric sleeve surgery isn’t a “fix it and forget it” kind of surgery. When considering if weight loss surgery is the right choice for teens, doctors make a decision on a number of factors. These include whether a teen is at least 14 years old and near adult height with more than 100 pounds of extra weight to lose, is healthy enough to handle surgery, or has medical problems that could improve with significant weight loss, such as sleep apnea, diabetes, or heart problems. Teen surgery can reverse obesity-related complications that can have life-shortening consequences, “and that ultimately is more important than actual pounds lost,” says Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity expert at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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* For More Information, Contact:

Matias Bruzoni, MD, FACS                                                    Kate DeTrempe

Assistant Professor of Surgery                                               Media Relations Specialist

Lucile Packard Children’s at Stanford                                    Lucile Packard Children’s at Stanford