Gastric Bypass for Teenagers & Children - Obesity Surgery Guide

Gastric bypass is a more complex procedure but is still very safe: it firstly involves the surgeon stapling a small part of the stomach to create a pouch.  This stapling reduces food intake (similar to gastric banding).  He/she will then take a Y-shaped part of the small intestine and attach this to the pouch.  This means that food transfers from the stomach directly into the middle part of the intestine bypassing the first part of the intestine.

This does mean however, that the ability to absorb essential nutrients from food, such as vitamins and minerals is reduced.  In order to prevent deficiencies, a vitamin and mineral supplement MUST be taken on a daily basis for the rest of the patient's life. 

With this type of surgery weight loss can be rapid especially in the first year after surgery.  From then on it will start to level out.  On balance gastric bypass does mean a greater weight loss than gastric banding although it has been found that teenagers do in fact, lose more weight from gastric banding.

One reason for this may be that they are more motivated and receive better feedback than adult patients.

Whether you choose gastric banding or gastric bypass the benefits from these types of surgery can include:  

  • Dramatic weight loss.  This can be 50 to 60% for gastric banding and 60 to 70% for gastric bypass.  This is especially noticeable in the first year post-surgery.  
  • Improved mobility.  You will notice that you are able to move around a lot more and take part in physical activities.
  • Diabetes – a marked improvement or in some cases it can be cured.
  • Lower blood pressure.  After surgery your blood pressure will return to a normal rate.  This means that you can reduce or stop taking blood pressure medication.
  • Lower levels of cholesterol.  These will have fallen which reduces your risk of heart disease as well.
  • Improved sleep.  If you have been experiencing problems sleeping this may be due to a condition called ‘sleep apnoea'.  This can mean that you have literally, been stopping breathing whilst you sleep and is due to pressure from excess fat around the neck. <
    The weight loss following surgery will remove this problem.
  • Less strain on joints and the skeleton in general.  Excess weight does put a great deal of strain on the body which includes the joints.  This can mean an increased risk of osteoarthritis, back pain and other such conditions.
    Weight loss after surgery will ease this pressure and so reduce this risk.
  • Little or no asthma attacks.  Many obese patients are prone to asthma as a result of the excess weight.  However, once this is lost they find that they have fewer attacks and in some cases, they stop altogether.
  • Improved self-confidence and self-esteem.  Teenagers Patients who have had this surgery report feelings of increased confidence and self-worth.  They feel that they can interact socially without any sense of exclusion or feeling like ‘a freak'.  Activities that were previously unavailable to them such as going to the gym are now open to them and generally, they feel a lot happier with themselves.
In other words, their quality of life has improved dramatically.

It is however, important to bear in mind that all surgery carries risks and there are a few associated with weight loss surgery.  Research has found that teenagers make a quicker recovery after surgery and are less likely to suffer from complications.  The risks are no greater for teenagers than they are for adults.

But, you still need to be aware that there are risks but fortunately, there are rare.  However, if you weight them up against the risks of suffering from an obesity related illness, such as heart disease then surgery is definitely a better bet.

The risks include:

  • Infections
  • Bleeding
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
  • Ulcers
  • Leaking or loose staples
  • The band slips or deflates
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Blood clots in the lungs
  • ‘Dumping syndrome': this happens if sugary food is absorbed too quickly through the body.  It causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, heart palpitations and sweating but usually eases if the patient lies down.  

Surgery can also be fatal but this is very uncommon.