More U.S. Teens Receive Bariatric Surgery for Obesity, Wall Street Journal Reports
The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday examines the increased number of obese U.S. teenagers who receive bariatric surgery. Since 2001, as many as 150 U.S. teens have received bariatric surgery, an irreversible procedure in which physicians use a surgical stapler to close a small pouch that reduces the size of the stomach and shorten the small intestine. Some health care experts maintain that bariatric surgery can help address a "troubling phenomenon: a generation of children poised to enter adulthood already burdened with maladies such as diabetes and heart disease that will shorten their lives and result in huge medical bills for society," the Journal reports. Obese teens face a number of potential health problems, such as high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, kidney problems, liver disease and the risk of heart failure in later life. According to the Journal, concerns over "how serious America's obesity epidemic has become" have helped "erode professional resistance to the procedure," which "until recently ... was rare and essentially taboo" for teens. Risks associated with bariatric surgery include inadequate nutrition, subsequent weight gain and death. Anecdotal reports from teens who have received bariatric surgery are "encouraging" -- many lose more than 100 pounds within six months of the procedure -- but many health insurers refuse to cover the procedure, which can cost as much as $40,000, because they maintain that "there aren't any conclusive data demonstrating that it works" for teens. In addition, some health care experts support alternatives to bariatric surgery, such as improved coverage for obesity prevention programs and new regulations on fast-food and soft drink advertisements, to address the problem of obesity among U.S. teens (Winslow/Rundle, Wall Street Journal, 10/7).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.