The new results bolster evidence from smaller studies in teens and also suggest teens may do better, at least initially, than adults. Earlier 30-day research in adults found a few deaths after obesity surgery, although the risk was no greater than for other major operations. There were no deaths in the teen study.
A three-year follow-up report on more than 2,000 patients in the adult study was also published online Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It showed adults generally had fewer obesity-related illnesses than in the teen study, and most weight loss occurred within the first year after surgery. Gastric bypass surgery, the most common operation in the U.S., resulted in more weight loss and more improvement in related illnesses than stomach banding, as other studies have shown. Three-year death rates were low, and similar for both procedures, but band patients had many more repeat surgeries.
In the teen study, whether obesity surgery resulted in lasting weight loss and better health remains to be seen; the researchers are still following the participants and calculating data.
But anecdotal reports from the teens suggest they’re doing pretty well.
Chelsea Hale of Cincinnati has shrunk from 314 to 170 pounds — almost half her previous size — since having surgery three years ago at age 17 at Cincinnati Children’s. Before surgery, Hale had a hormonal problem, heart blockage and sleep apnea — all linked with obesity and all have since subsided.
“I feel good, I can pretty much physically do anything,” said Hale, now in nursing school.
Like 28 percent of the teens studied, she had gastric sleeve surgery, which involves removing part of the stomach and creating a smaller tube or sleeve-shaped stomach. She has to be careful about eating only small portions of foods, to avoid getting sick, but said otherwise she has no food restrictions.