Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, UCSF To Launch Pediatric Bariatric Surgery Programs
Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center are preparing to launch bariatric surgery programs to treat obesity in children, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Lucile Packard next month will begin offering gastric bypass surgery, an irreversible procedure in which a portion of the stomach is stapled to require less food, to children whose body mass index is greater than 40; a BMI of 30 is considered obese. To qualify for the program, a child must also have at least one weight-related health problem, such as diabetes. UCSF will begin offering a bariatric surgical procedure called gastric banding, in which a band is placed around the upper portion of the stomach to shrink the size of the organ. The medical center said it would prefer patients who already have entered puberty. Both hospitals said the bariatric surgery programs would be offered only for select cases, and patients and families must undergo a "rigorous" screening process to ensure that dietary and exercise habits will be following after the surgery, the Mercury News reports. Further, both hospitals will require patients to have tried an organized weight loss program for at least six months prior to qualifying for the surgery. Bariatric surgery, which costs approximately $25,000, is not usually covered by health insurers because some insurers consider the procedure cosmetic and because the FDA has not approved the surgery for children. Doctors acknowledge that the surgery is controversial but say that it is "necessary to treat the growing ranks" of obese children, the Mercury News reports. In addition, the divergence of bariatric surgical procedures at the hospitals "underscores how new the procedures are and how little is known about their long-term effects on children," according to the Mercury News. Dr. William Cochran, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics section of gastroenterology and nutrition, said, "This is clearly not the treatment of choice for pediatric obesity, but in a limited number of children it may be appropriate" (Vo, San Jose Mercury News, 8/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.