Major medical group says more severely obese kids should have weight loss surgery

WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- A major medical group says more severely obese kids should have weight loss surgery.

A local doctor who helped write the new report says it could mean healthier adult lives for them, and maybe their families.

Obviously, it's a tough decision for a young person, for families, and even for doctors.

Many doctors wait to do surgery, fearing it could affect a child's growth.

But this new report from some of the nation's top pediatricians say waiting may do its own harm

For decades, doctors have relied on medications, and trying to change behavior to help teens and pre-teens lose weight.

But Doctor Kirk Reichard of the bariatric clinic at Nemours duPont Hospital says success has been limited.

With childhood obesity continuing to climb, the American Academy of Pediatrics began to look at bariatric surgery 4 years ago.

They weren't just concerned about weight, but about the rise in high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, and liver disease.

Dr. Reichard says evidence shows surgery shouldn't wait until adulthood.

"The more you delay care, the less effective the care ultimately is," says Dr. Reichard.

When surgery is done later, weight loss is slower and smaller. So are improvements in blood pressure and diabetes.

In fact, bariatric surgery during the teenage years is more successful.

"The weight loss is better than we see in adults at 5 years, with an excess weight loss range of 50-60%," he says.

And other health problems improve faster.

"We have diabetic children who are no longer taking insulin. We have children with sleep apnea and liver disease who no longer have these issues," says Dr. Reichard.

The new recommendations also focus on helping the family, not just the child.

"For our program in Delaware, we have a nutritional notebook that the families actually work on and fill out, so that they learn a lot more about nutrition than most people would know, and with exercise, and same with behavioral health issues," he says.

Dr. Reichard says one goal of the guidelines is to help general pediatricians feel more comfortable talking about this option.

The Academy also hopes more insurance companies will cover the surgery, and that more children's hospitals will offer it.
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