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Weight Loss Surgery for Teens Is Not a Quick Fix

The vast attention on the obesity epidemic in the U.S. is nothing less than staggering. Obesity and its related illnesses (including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, liver problems and impaired quality of life to name a few) – is a considered one of the most significant and preventable causes of death worldwide, and it’s increasing in adults and children.

Here in Ohio, with 33 percent of children overweight or obese, our state exceeds the national average of 31 percent. Ohio’s ranking of 37th in the country has worsened since 2003.

As a pediatric surgeon and a father of two teenaged boys, the current trends in childhood obesity are shocking.

In an effort to fight obesity, the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital has developed a number of comprehensive family-based approaches to weight management. The Center has programs for both the prevention and treatment of overweight and obese children and adolescents. One of these options is weight loss surgery. Since 2004, we have offered various weight reduction procedures including Gastric Bypass, Gastric Sleeve, and Adjustable Gastric Band.

As a surgeon who specializes in the treatment of severe adolescent obesity, it has always been apparent that surgical weight loss, also known as bariatric surgery, is not for everyone. Despite many public misconceptions, bariatric surgery is not a cosmetic procedure or “quick fix” but rather, presents a safe and effective option for individuals who have been unable to maintain weight loss and control their health through dieting, exercise and behavior modifications alone.

To qualify for weight loss surgery, patients must be at least 100 pounds over their ideal body weight and undergo a complete medical evaluation. This includes a physical exam, nutrition, activity and social work evaluations and psychological testing. This process can take 6-12 months.

As with any surgery, there are risks. But the benefits – weight loss, improvement in obesity-related conditions – are significant. In my experience, in many cases, weight loss surgery is a life saver.

If you are interested in learning more about bariatric surgery at Nationwide Children’s, consider attending an upcoming information session. These free sessions provide an overview of the bariatric surgery process, the three types of weight loss surgery available for teens to combat obesity and the benefits, risks, advantages and disadvantages of each.

Marc P. Michalsky, MD
Marc P. Michalsky, MD, is Surgical Director for the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children's Hospital, a multidisciplinary center dedicated to the treatment of overweight and obese children and adolescents and an Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He is the father of two teenage boys.

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