Initial results of a first and largest of its kind study focusing on the safety of adolescent bariatric surgery were published this week in JAMA Pediatrics. The "Teen Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery" (Teen-LABS) study is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is being conducted at five sites in the U.S., including Nationwide Children's Hospital. Thomas H. Inge, MD, PhD, with Cincinnati Children's Hospital, is the study's principal investigator.
"This NIH-funded study is benchmark research in the field of adolescent bariatric surgery," said Marc Michalsky, MD, surgical director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children's and a faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. "Participating in a study of this magnitude with colleagues around the country, collaborating to gather integral safety data, is both gratifying and hugely beneficial to adolescents suffering with severe obesity and health complications we used to diagnose only in adults. While the research continues, these initial findings should provide encouragement to adolescents and their families as they consider bariatric surgery."
Researchers in the study found few short-term complications for the 242 severely obese adolescents with health complications who underwent bariatric surgery and participated in the study from 2007 to 2012. The average age of study participants was 17 years of age with a median body mass (BMI) of 50.5. Study investigators reviewed any complications which occurred within 30 days of bariatric surgical procedures. Sixty-six percent of study participants underwent laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery, vertical sleeve gastrectomy was performed on 28 percent and six percent underwent adjustable gastric banding.
There were no deaths of study participants and 77 percent experienced no complications, with an additional 15 percent experiencing minor complications (such as dehydration). Additional surgery was required in eight percent of the patients participating in the study.
Researchers are continuing to examine long-term risks and benefits for the 242 adolescent bariatric surgery patients who participated in this initial study through the Teen-LABS project.
In the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children's, patients first go through several months of intensive evaluation to determine if they are candidates for weight loss surgery. The process includes an introductory information session attended by the adolescent and parents, followed by assessments of the potential candidate by a number of staff in the Center including dieticians, bariatric nurse practitioners, psychologists, physical therapists and surgeons. Candidates for weight loss surgery are those that have gone through several failed attempts at diet and exercise regimens and bariatric surgical procedures are never performed for cosmetic purposes. Adolescents who qualify for surgery have significant organ damage with poor quality of life.