Weight-loss surgery for kids gets green light from American Academy of Pediatrics

Bariatric or metabolic surgery, which limits calorie intake by constricting the stomach or digestive system, has proven to be effective in fighting obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease and even sleep apnea. Most of the time, adults get health insurers to cover such surgery.

And most of the time, children are denied coverage, usually just for being under 18 years old – despite increasing evidence that such procedures can help severely overweight children grow up healthier and live more normal lives.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently called on health insurance companies to cover children who otherwise face lifelong risks resulting from obesity. Dr. Lisa Clemons, a family medicine physician at ARC Southwest, agrees and shared her thinking in a recent KXAN-TV interview.


‘They Grow Normally’

“It’s a growing health concern, year by year, as more kids become obese,” Dr. Clemons told KXAN’s Sally Hernandez. “We know they are at risk of becoming (Type 2) diabetics and remaining diabetics for their lifetimes.”

A recent study found that severely overweight teens who previously had surgery were successful in keeping off excess weight and tolerating any side effects, such as creating a need for vitamin supplements.

“They grow normally,” Dr. Clemons said. “The benefits of the surgery far outweigh any risks.”

Obesity affects 20% of children in the U.S. The ailment generally is defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens. Lifestyle modifications show some success with kids less severely obese, but few noninvasive strategies have worked for children more severely obese.


‘Safe and Effective’

The past decade has shown weight-loss surgery to be “safe and effective” when performed in high-quality medical centers, but as the AAP’s Dr. Sarah Armstrong noted in a USA Today story, “Unfortunately, we see significant disparities in which patients have access to bariatric surgery. Surgery needs to be an option for all qualifying patients, regardless of race, ethnicity or income.”

Insurers often consider weight-loss surgery for those under 18 years old to be experimental and deny coverage. The AAP hopes its new recommendation will change that.

If you have concerns about your child’s weight, please contact your physician. If you are not yet an ARC patient, schedule an appointment with one of our pediatric experts.

See the KXAN-TV story here.

Tags: KXAN, Bariatric Surgery , American Association of Pediatrics, Dr. Lisa Clemons, metabolic surgery

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