Following media accounts of a morbidly obese 12-year-old girl who underwent liposuction, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery warns that the procedure should never be used as a treatment for childhood obesity because there is no evidence the procedure is safe or effective for children.

“Eating and exercise habits do not change as a result of the surgery,” says Zachary Gerut, MD, assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at Albert Einstein Medical Center in New York City and a member of the society’s body-contouring committee. “The majority of people who have liposuction simply go on to gain the weight back. Liposuction is not a treatment for obesity in adults, and certainly not in children.”

Many surgeons say the procedure should not be performed until a teenager has stopped growing and never for the primary purpose of weight loss, regardless of a patient’s age.

According to Gerut, it is rare to remove more than 10 pounds of fat and fluid during liposuction. The procedure is used primarily to reduce stubborn fat deposits in the abdomen, buttocks, or thighs that are impervious to diet and exercise. The best candidates are of normal weight.

“The problem is that everyone wants a quick fix,” Gerut says. “This is not it.”

[www.al.com, November 27, 2006]