Adolescent Weight Loss Surgery



Weight loss surgery is a highly effective way to achieve lasting weight loss and significantly reduce other conditions like diabetes, hypertension, asthma, depression, and arthritis. It also greatly improves overall health and self-esteem. For adolescents, this surgery can help reverse the effects of obesity.

The right surgical procedure for your child will be determined during the initial consultation meetings with your doctor. 


Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy surgery

This is the only weight loss surgery performed by Children’s Health.  The sleeve gastrectomy removes up to 75 percent of the stomach, which limits the amount of food that can be eaten at one time.  It is also thought to encourage weight loss by removal of ghrelin-secreting cells in the upper stomach.  Although it does not rearrange the configuration of the small intestine, it has weight loss that is rapid and comparable to the gastric bypass.

Weight loss surgery is done laparoscopically, with small, thin instruments inserted via five or six small incisions in the abdomen. 

Laparoscopic surgery results in positive outcomes including:

  • Less pain and reduced need for pain medication
  • Less risk of wound infection
  • Quicker recovery and return to daily activities
  • Shorter hospital stays – one or two days

Gastric lap band surgery

This surgery does not remove any part of the stomach. Instead, it reduces the size of the stomach by a band placed around the upper portion of the stomach.  Because the band limits the amount of food that can be eaten at one time, you will feel fuller when you do eat.  The band can be adjusted by the surgeon over the course of time via a thin tube leading to an access port that is left under the skin. 

This surgery is not approved for patients under age 18.

Gastric bypass surgery

This surgery reforms the stomach to create a smaller stomach pouch that is connected to a section of small intestine. This limits the amount of food that can be eaten at one time and the calories that are absorbed from that food. 

Because this surgery has long-term nutrition repercussions, it is not often recommended for adolescents.

Surgical criteria

  • Be at least 14 years of age and nearly through puberty
  • Have a BMI of at least 35 with severe negative health effects, a BMI of greater than 40
  • Have attempted weight loss with diet and medical management for at least six months
  • Express willingness to follow program requirements including all clinical testing and regular appointment follow-up visits
  • Be confirmed by a psychologist or psychiatrist that the child is mature enough to follow through on making life-style changes
  • Complete all pre-surgery tests and health evaluations. This is usually performed in cooperation with COACH, which is our medical weight loss clinic. The providers in this clinic can also medically optimize patients with chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure Click here for more information about this service.

Candidates who meet the criteria for the surgery must sign an assent form and their legal guardian must sign a consent form. Weight loss surgery is not appropriate for all adolescents, including:

  • Those who are pregnant or intend to become pregnant within 12 months
  • Are not mature enough or mentally capable enough to follow through on life-style changes
  • Have certain chronic conditions of the heart, liver or intestines
  • Those who take certain anti-inflammatory medications

After Surgery

Weight loss surgery changes how the body handles food and beverages.  In order to allow the stomach to heal, weight loss surgery patients will be placed on a special meal plan.  A very specific diet must be followed for 6 weeks.  This diet restricts the types of foods and how much to eat and drink.

On the same day after surgery, you will be able to move around. You will be started on clear liquids the first day following surgery.  It is important to follow the feeding instructions that your surgeon provides.

In addition to diet:

  • A long-term exercise plan is prescribed
  • Regular follow-up appointments

Remember, surgery is only the start of a new you. You will be in control of the results of the surgery.


Does insurance pay for surgery?

Most insurance companies will pay for weight loss surgery.  You should check with your plan to see if this is a covered benefit. Insurance companies often have specific requirements that the surgical and scheduling team at Children’s Health will help you with.

What kind of changes will need to be made before and after surgery?

Surgery is only successful when combined with healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes.  This is a commitment patients need to make.

How soon will I start losing weight?

Most patients start losing weight within the first few weeks of surgery. It is important to note that exercise will improve the rate at which you lose weight.

How long will it take for my diabetes or my high blood pressure to improve?

Most complications of obesity improve within 12 to 18 months after surgery.

Are there any complications of weight loss surgery?

Although rare, complications can occur. Your surgeon will review those with you and your family.

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