Reaching Consensus on Bariatric Intervention in Children and Adolescents

A recent medical position paper (Nobili V, et al. JPGN 2015; 60: 550-61) provides guidance for bariatric surgery intervention in children and adolescents with and without nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

While the authors acknowledge that bariatric surgery can “dramatically reduce the risk of adulthood obesity and obesity-related diseases,” they advocate its use in adolescents with the following:

  • BMI >40 kg/m-squared with severe comorbidities: type 2 diabetes mellitus, moderate-to-severe sleep apnea, pseudotumor cerebri, or NASH with advanced fibrosis (ISHAK score >1)
  • BMI >50 kg/m-squared with mild comorbidities: hypertension, dyslipidemia, psychological distress, gastroesophageal reflux, anthropathies, NASH, impairment in activities of daily living, mild obstructive sleep apnea, panniculitis, chronic venous insufficiency, urinary incontinence
  • Additional criteria: have attained 95% of adult stature, failed behavioral/medical treatments, psychological evaluation perioperatively, avoid pregnancy for 1 year after surgery, will adhere to nutritional guidelines after surgery, informed assent from teenager (along with parental consent)

Key points:

  • “There is a lack of randomized controlled trials examining the effects of bariatric surgery on NAFLD or NASH.”  In Table 3, the authors provide a summary of 16 previous studies/outcomes; though none of the studies enrolled more than 60 patients.
  • In an adult prospective study with 381 patients (Mathurin P et al. Gastroenterol 2009; 137: 532-40), there was a significant decline in the severity/prevalence of steatosis and resolution of NASH at 1 and 5 years.
  • Bariatric surgery, in adult studies, have improved diabetes, insulin resistance, hypertension, and dyslipidemia.
  • Patients who have “undergone bariatric surgery show higher suicide rates than the general population.”  Psychological evaluation should be integrated with surgical decision.
  • Type of surgery: Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (RYGB) is favored by the authors; they also discuss studies with Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding (LAGB).  “RYGB and LAGB are the 2 main surgical procedures that have been used in pediatric obesity.  RYGB is considered a safe and effective option for adolescents with extreme obesity, as long as appropriate long-term follow-up is provided. LAGB has not been approved by Food and Drug Administration for use in adolescents, and there should be considered investigational only.”

It is interesting that the authors are so deferential to the Food and Drug Administration.  It is clear from their position paper that LAGB has similar evidence supporting its use in adolescents as RYGB.  They even note that it has potential for reversibility and “an excellent safety profile with a lower risk of postoperative vitamin deficiencies when compared with biliopancreatic diversion and RYGB.”

Bottomline: Given the continuation of the obesity epidemic, additional pediatric medical expertise will be needed to help evaluate adolescents for bariatric surgery and to follow them postoperatively.

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6 thoughts on “Reaching Consensus on Bariatric Intervention in Children and Adolescents

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