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Division of Pediatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery for teens: Weighing the evidence

Thomas Inge, MD

Dr. Thomas Inge speaks with reporters about his study at the 9 News studio.

Adolescents living with obesity face a myriad of health problems that can affect their quality of life and shorten their lifespan. When medical and behavioral interventions fail to keep a teenager’s weight in check, should doctors consider counseling their young patients to undergo weight-loss surgery?

The decision to recommend surgery is never taken lightly, and concerns about the vulnerability of teenagers’ developing bodies have made doctors even more cautious in presenting bariatric surgery as an option to their younger patients. Until recently, there have been few studies of bariatric surgery in teens to guide physicians in evaluating the risks of the surgery versus the risks of letting a young person’s obesity go unchecked.

This year, a new study in JAMA Pediatrics by Dr. Thomas Inge and colleagues provides much-needed data. Nearly 100 severely obese adolescents who underwent weight-loss surgery were compared two years later to their peers who received medical treatment alone. The results of the study are striking: the adolescents who received surgery had significantly better health outcomes at the two-year mark, including lower weight, improved blood pressure, and reduced diabetic symptoms.

To read more and watch an interview with Dr. Inge, visit the 9 News website. (A brief advertisement will play before the news video begins.)

(April 2018)

Study shows benefits of teen weight-loss surgery

Thomas Inge, MD

Dr. Thomas Inge, founder of the Teen-LABS project and second author of the new study

New research published this month in the journal Pediatrics shows that severely obese teens who undergo bariatric surgery to lose weight are likely to receive exactly the kinds of health benefits their doctors have hoped for.

The study analyzed new data collected as part of the Teen-LABS Project, which was started by Dr. Thomas Inge in 2007 to study the results of bariatric surgery in 242 adolescents. (“LABS” stands for “Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery.”) Three years after their surgeries, these young patients showed measurable improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation, and insulin levels. More importantly, said Inge, the study "also demonstrated that younger teens may see greater improvements in some of the cardiovascular risks than older adolescents—a finding that speaks to the question of when is the best timing of these interventions."

The new data analysis was led by Dr. Marc Michalsky of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who noted, "The potential impact of such risk reduction translates into a reduced likelihood of developing significant heart disease later in life, including atherosclerosis, heart failure, and stroke."

Under Dr. Inge’s leadership, the Children’s Hospital of Colorado has established the only bariatric treatment program for adolescents in the region.

Learn more:

(January 2018)

Doctors help young patients in Guatemala

Nurse Heidi Childs with a patient in Guatemala City

In January, a team of medical professionals led by Dr. Stig Somme and Dr. Fred Deleyiannis traveled from Colorado to Guatemala City to provide free medical care. At the Moore Pediatric Surgery Center, the team performed more than 60 procedures on patients ranging in age from 3 months to 18 years.

Each year, Children's Hospital Colorado and Project C.U.R.E. collaborate to gather all the supplies needed for the surgeries. The medical team, which includes plastic surgeons, pediatric surgeons, nurses, and pediatric anesthesiologists, has focused specifically on microtia repair and general surgery such as hernia repair, circumcisions, and gall bladder surgeries.

Read more on the Children's Hospital Colorado website.

(January 2016)

Regents tour fetal-care center

Dr. Timothy Crombleholme leads the Colorado Board of Regents on a tour of the Colorado Fetal Care Center

The University of Colorado Board of Regents capped off a retreat on the Anschutz Medical Campus with a tour of the Colorado Fetal Care Center (CFCC) at Children’s Hospital Colorado. The CFCC, a collaboration between Children’s Hospital Colorado, University of Colorado Hospital, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, is one of the leading fetal clinical practice groups in the U.S.

Dr. Timothy Crombleholme, director of the CFCC and Professor of Surgery, led the tour. Read more in CU Anschutz Today.

(January 2016)