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Gastric bypass

Gastric band weight loss surgery now being performed on underage teenagers

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 by: M.T. Whitney
Tags: gastric bypass, childhood obesity, children's health

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(NewsTarget) With the increase in obesity among children, some parents are turning to a relatively unexplored solution with their offspring: stomach stapling.

Stomach surgeries have been around for years, and its popularity has surged among adults in recent years going from 12,775 to 70,256 surgeries in the U.S. from 1998 to 2002, according to the monthly Archives of Surgery journal. More recently, that number has increased to more than 120,000 a year.

But what about children? In 2004, only 350 kids in America had such an operation, according to federal statistics. Doctors have been hesitant to do the surgeries for more than one reason: for one, most stomach surgeries cut the stomach to make it operate as smaller "pouch," which has unknown health risks to a developing child -- the death rate among kids who do the surgery is around 1 in 50, which is twice the death rate among adults who have bariatric surgery.

As well, childhood obesity was not nearly as prevalent in American society compared to today. However, while bellies have grown, so has interest in the surgeries.

Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate who has written numerous health books, says the increase in bariatric surgery is a disappointing barometer regarding the future of America's health.

"It's disgusting that surgeons are now targeting young teens for bariatric surgeries, given that the real solution to childhood obesity can never be addressed by maiming a child's digestive system," Adams said.

"The way to deal with obesity is to teach nutrition, ban junk food advertising, remove vending machines from schools and end the manipulation of our children's health by food and soda companies."

In July, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality hat said four in 10 weight-loss surgery patients develop problematic complications within six months after the surgery.

Incidentally, with the increase in surgeries comes an increase in cost to private health insurance companies according to the University of Michigan Health System, in the year 2002 hospitals charged roughly $2 billion for the cost for more than 70,000 surgeries. Health insurers picked up the tab for 80 percent of that cost.

These costs are then often spread to other policyholders covered by the insurer.

Going to a hospital for stomach surgery costs an average of $29,000, a study by the UMHS showed.


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