Metabolic and bariatric surgeries among 10- to 19-year-olds rose by nearly 20% between 2020 and 2021, after climbing since 2016, a new study finds.
The jump is especially notable among those from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds, who are packing on pounds more readily than white kids, the researchers said.
“This analysis shows that families are making the decision to pursue bariatric surgery more frequently year-over-year, and among those from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds in particular,” said Sarah Messiah, study co-author and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Houston School of Public Health.
“This is an important finding given the disparities in cardiometabolic disease risk factors that disproportionately impact these groups,” she said in a UT Health news release.
The rise in bariatric surgeries is in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ new guidelines. The children’s health organization recommends lifestyle changes, surgery and medication for the treatment of obesity in adolescents.
“We were particularly interested in utilization trends after the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement in late 2019 endorsing more access to surgery for adolescents for the first time. Our analysis suggests that these access channels are being utilized, and more frequently, even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Messiah said.
About 20% of U.S. children are obese, nearly 15 million between the ages of 2 and 19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The severe obesity rate in this age group grew from less than 6% in 2015 to almost 7% in 2018, an increase of approximately 4.8 million youths, the researchers said in background notes. The largest rise was seen among Hispanic and Black youth.
The health risks associated with obesity outweigh the risks of surgery, proponents say.
For the study, researchers used data on more than 1.3 million U.S. kids aged 10 to 19 and adults 20 and up from the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program for the years 2015 to 2021.
The investigators found that in 2021, metabolic and bariatric surgery increased from 182 to 258 procedures in Black youths, from 179 to 273 surgeries in Hispanic youths and from 459 to 518 procedures among white youths.
The study results were published online recently in JAMA Pediatrics.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on weight-loss surgery.
SOURCE: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, news release, June 1, 2023