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More adolescents in the US are undergoing metabolic and bariatric surgery

More adolescents in the US are undergoing metabolic and bariatric surgery (MBS), according to researchers from University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. The number of metabolic and bariatric surgeries among young people ages 10 to 19 has been on the rise since 2016, but a new report shows that between 2020 and 2021, the number of weight loss surgeries among youth increased by nearly 20%.

Figure 1: Number of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (MBS) Procedures Completed in US From 2015 to 2021. Number of MBS procedures among youth (A) and adults (B) overall and stratified by race and ethnicity before and after (solid vertical line) the 2019 American Academy of Pediatrics statement calling for increased MBS access for adolescents. P for trend < .001 in both age groups. Credit: JAMA Pediatrics (2023). DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2023.0803

"This analysis shows that families are making the decision to pursue bariatric surgery more frequently year-over-year, and among those from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds in particular," said Dr Sarah Messiah, first author of the study and professor of epidemiology at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health. "This is an important finding given the disparities in cardiometabolic disease risk factors that disproportionately impact these groups."

In the cohort study, researchers gathered data from 1,346,468 participants between the ages of 10 and 19 and adults over the age of 19 from the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program between the years 2015 and 2021. Researchers found that in 2021, completion of metabolic or bariatric surgery increased from 182 to 258 in Black youths, from 179 to 273 procedures in Hispanic youths, and from 459 to 518 procedures among white youths.


Earlier in 2023, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines for the treatment of obesity, which recommends lifestyle changes as well as surgery and medications for adolescents.

"We were particularly interested in utilisation trends after the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement in late 2019 endorsing more access to surgery for adolescents for the first time. Our analysis suggests that these access channels are being utilised, and more frequently, even during the COVID-19 pandemic," added Messiah.


The severe obesity rate in the pediatric population rose from 5.6% in 2015 to 6.5% in 2018, an increase of approximately 4.8 million youths, with the largest increase among Hispanic youth (4.1% in 1999-2000 to 10.7% in 2017-2018), followed by non-Hispanic Black (hereafter Black) youth (from 6.7% to 10.2%, respectively) and non-Hispanic White (hereafter White) youth (from 2.6% to 4%, respectively).


“A study limitation is that the MBSAQIP data may not be representative of all MBS practices in the US. Nevertheless, results of the present study suggest cautious optimism regarding the decreasing barriers to MBS for those US youth in need,” the authors concluded.


The findings from the Research Letter, ‘Use of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Among US Youth’, were published in JAMA Pediatrics. To access this paper, please click here

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