As more and more children and teenagers become overweight, the debate around the age restriction of obesity surgery intensifies. In the UK, the The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends a minimum age of eighteen, in all but exceptional cases.
However, the boundaries of such exceptional cases appear to grow each year, and now an ever increasing number of teenagers are receiving weight loss treatments such as gastric bands and sleeve gastrectomy. But should such procedures be offered to boys and girls who are clearly still developing both physically and mentally?
In terms of risk, studies have shown that the chances of things going wrong are no higher than those for adults. Indeed, provided the teenager is assessed according to the same criteria as a normal patient, the risks are often lower due to the likelihood of a healthier, less ravaged body.
Obesity treatment should only be carried out where diet and exercise have been tried and failed. Whether a teenager is old enough to have sufficiently explored such solutions, is open to question. It is an issue that the patient's GP and potential surgeon would have to examine.
At the moment, obesity surgery is deemed inappropriate for children as young as thirteen. But ten years ago, most people wouldn't have agreed with sixteen or seventen year olds having treatment, and now it's increasingly common. Obesity surgery should only be used as a last resort, and this simply cannot be the case with young teenagers.
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