Obesity in children is a serious health problem that increases the chances of high blood pressure, heart disease, and abnormal glucose levels later in life as children advance into adulthood. Besides health conditions, an overweight child may be faced with other challenges such as depression, low self-esteem, and poor grades in school. Luckily, obese children can overcome their weight issues through a surgical procedure known as bariatric surgery. Despite the ongoing debate as to whether obese children should have weight loss surgery, there have been many successful surgical operations done in the past years to suppress the effects of obesity in children. However, many people are still concerned about the minimum age requirements for bariatric surgery.
Minimum Age Requirements for Bariatric Surgery
Determining whether a child or a teenager is ready for bariatric surgery is a big decision. It involves the decision of the patient, doctor, families, psychologists, dietitians and exercise specialists. According to expert surgeons, teens who are 14 years of age can be allowed to go for surgery most importantly if they have already gone through puberty. They also need to have a body mass index of 35 BMI or more with serious medical problems caused by excessive weight. However, doctors look at other things besides age and weight before someone can have surgery. Some types of weight loss surgeries are not recommended for people who are below 18 years of age with exceptions for individuals with serious health complications.
Selection Criteria for Weight Loss Surgery in Obese Children
- Healthy Enough for Surgery
One of the things doctors assess is whether a teen is healthy enough for weight loss surgery. Before undergoing the surgical procedure, the patients work with exercise specialists and dietitians to improve their health in the preceding months before surgery. This is done to make weight loss surgery more effective and safer for the patient.
- Patient Knowledge of What is Involved
The patient needs to be aware of what is going on before undergoing bariatric surgery. He or she must consent to the requirements of the procedure and the recommendations made by the doctor on the type of exercises and diet to follow surgery. The actual surgery is just the first step to weight loss journey and the things that happen after the surgical procedure might be more essential than the surgery itself.
- Emotionally Mature for Surgery
Patients who undergo weight loss surgery have to deal with pain, health complications, and long recovery times. A teenager who wants to have a bariatric surgery has to be emotionally prepared to accept and handle everything that comes with undergoing a surgical procedure. If a patient seems scared or not ready for the surgery then doctors may recommend other alternative options that are less invasive.
- Accepting New Lifestyle Changes
A surgeon may want to know whether a patient is willing to adjust to the new diet and lifestyle changes after surgery. Patients who undergo bariatric surgery can never go back to their old ways of living. They need to exercise every day, follow a healthy diet plan, take mineral and vitamin supplements, and show up to all their medical appointments. If a patient is not willing to take this route, then surgery alone may not be enough in their journey to losing weight and keep it off completely.
- Support From Family Members
It is quite difficult to stick to new lifestyle changes without help since you will have a hard time adjusting to a new way of eating, daily exercises, and regular appointments to the doctor. A patient who undergoes a bariatric surgery should have family members who are ready to provide both emotional and practical support they need to help them go through the hard times.
Is it Appropriate for Children to Undergo Bariatric Surgery?
Childhood and teenage obesity can result in several health conditions that worsen as they advance to their adulthood years. Not only can they be detrimental to their overall health but it can also shorten the lifespan of the patient. The verdict about whether your child should go for bariatric surgery may require several meetings with psychologists and doctors to decide if an operation is the best choice. There are times when doctors do not think a person is ready while sometimes, patients and their families may decide that surgery is not the right option for them.
The minimal age requirements for bariatric surgery may vary depending on the assessment made by your surgeon about your health and one’s readiness for the procedure. The patient and their families need to make the ultimate decision if they should pursue weight loss surgery or employ other less invasive options. The minimum age is on a case by case basis. Please come in with your child for a consultation to determine what is best for your child.