About 15%of American children are obese. In response to this epidemic, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital has opened the Center for Adolescent Bariatric Surgery to help obese patients lose weight and reduce many of the serious health risks associated with obesity. As part of the program, obese children have the option of losing weight with or without surgery.

Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital is the only children’s hospital approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to place adjustable gastric bands in patients younger than 18 years. There are approximately 50 patients currently enrolled in the program.

"Most young patients initially come to the program for treatment of prediabetes or insulin resistance, heart problems, joint problems, or other complications associated with their obesity," says Marc Bessler, MD, surgical director of the Center for Obesity Management at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and assistant professor of surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "Like adults who receive treatment for obesity, adolescent patients undergo rigorous education and a lengthy program of multidisciplinary, nonsurgical therapies. Nevertheless, nearly 90% of adolescents with a body-mass index (BMI) greater than 40 are ultimately unable to achieve or maintain adequate weight loss despite intensive medical regimens. For these patients, the new program offers laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB), which studies have shown to be the safest and least traumatic surgical procedure."

According to physicians, the program has chosen to perform LAGB rather than other types of bariatric surgery because it is completely reversible, it does not reroute patients’ digestive anatomy, and the laparoscopic technique is minimally invasive. However, even this option requires significant changes in adolescents’ diets and lifestyles, and the long-term effects on children’s lives have not been conclusively studied.

At Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and other FDA-approved hospitals, pediatric LAGB surgery is currently available only to children 14 and older. Younger patients enroll in nonsurgical weight-loss programs.

[Newswise, November 29, 2006]