Gastric Banding for Teens Under Review by FDA

Lap-Band surgery may become a more common treatment option for teens struggling with obesity if proposed regulatory changes are approved.

The FDA is currently considering broadening its standards on gastric banding to include teens ages 14 to 17. Currently, adjustable gastric banding surgery is only approved only for adults over age 18. Although surgeons are not prohibited from performing Lap-Band surgery on teens, it is considered off-label use — and is a topic of much debate among doctors.

 However, new information may help shift the debate in favor of weight loss surgery. When compared with those strictly in diet and exercise programs, teens who had the gastric band lost more than ten times as much weight after two years, according to a new study.

 The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the first of its kind to compare behavioral weight loss interventions in teens to gastric band surgery.

 In the study, 50 obese teens, ranging from age 14 to 17, were randomly assigned to receive both the surgery and post-op diet training — or to have no surgery and go through intensive diet and exercise programs. Two years into the study, the gastric banding group had lost an average of 76 pounds while the lifestyle group had only lost an average of 6.6 pounds — with some actually gaining weight during the program.

 However, the surgeries were not without complications – in fact, one in three patients in the study required a follow-up procedure. Dr. Jonathan Schoen, bariatric surgeon at the University of Colorado hospital, says the safety of the surgery is something entirely unproven. 

 He recently told ABC News, “There is no doubt that bariatric surgery has a very important role in adolescent morbid obesity. However, which operation will provide the best and longest-term outcome is still a matter of much debate.”

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