California Teens Get More Obesity Surgery With Gastric Bands

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A student weighs in at Wellspring Academy, a special school in Reedley, Calif., that incorporates weight loss with academic studies.

Even without Food and Drug Administration approval for use in kids, gastric bands are becoming a popular choice for teens undergoing weight-loss surgery.

Teens in trend-setting California are having obesity surgery with adjustable bands to constrict their stomachs a lot more often these days.

The problem is that gastric bands, which can be adjusted after surgery to change the stomach's capacity for food, aren't approved for use in kids by the Food and Drug Administration. So the long-term effectiveness and side effects in children haven't been vetted.

Researchers at UCLA combed a state database for information on adolescents, aged 13-20, who had surgery between 2005 and 2007 to help them lose weight. They found the rate of banding surgery increased nearly sevenfold to 1.5 per 100,000 people.

Over the same period the popularity of more traditional stomach bypass surgery fell to 2.7 from 3.8 per 100,000.

Toward the end of the study, more patients 18 and younger were getting gastric banding instead of bypass. But, overall, the rates of all types of obesity surgery didn't change, holding steady at 4.9 per 100,000 adolescents.

As for side effects, nearly 5 percent of the people who had gastric bands needed another round of surgery to remove the band or fix something that went wrong. About 3 percent of the those who had conventional stomach bypass needed another operation.

The findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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