News & Articles

New Guidelines for Treating Childhood Obesity Include Bariatric Surgery for The First Time

Jan 05, 2023
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released its first comprehensive guideline for evaluating and treating children and adolescents with obesity.

Dallas, TX – The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released its first comprehensive guideline for evaluating and treating children and adolescents with obesity. The new guidelines include bariatric surgery as a viable treatment option for the first time.

The AAP’s Clinical Practice Guideline, “Evaluation, Prevention, and Treatment of Childhood and Adolescent Overweight and Obesity” is the first comprehensive evidence-based guideline to address childhood obesity. It was developed by a committee of experts in pediatrics, nutrition, psychology, endocrinology, public health, and other related fields.

Dr. Nick Nicholson with Nicholson Clinic for Weight Loss Surgery in Dallas says that the new guidelines are an important step forward in addressing this growing public health problem. “Childhood obesity is an epidemic that affects millions of children in the United States alone. Early intervention is essential to prevent long-term health complications associated with excess weight gain in children and adolescents such as diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, joint problems, social stigma and even psychological issues like depression or low self-esteem.”

For adolescents who have been unable to achieve significant weight loss through lifestyle changes alone or who have severe medical complications due to their weight gain, the AAP now recommends bariatric surgery as an option for treatment. Bariatric surgery can provide long-term weight loss results by reducing the size of the stomach or rerouting how food moves through the digestive system so that less food is absorbed into the body. These surgeries include gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and adjustable gastric banding.

The AAP recommends that adolescents be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare providers prior to undergoing bariatric surgery. This team should include medical providers such as pediatricians and psychiatrists; nutritionists; psychologists; endocrinologists; exercise specialists; social workers; and surgeons who specialize in bariatric procedures. This team should assess the adolescent’s physical health, mental health status, readiness to change behaviors related to eating habits and physical activity levels, family dynamics related to food choices, and any risk factors for surgical complications or postoperative problems.

The AAP also recommends close follow-up after bariatric surgery to ensure that the adolescent is meeting his or her weight loss goals and managing any potential side effects from the procedure. The follow-up should include regular visits with a primary care provider or pediatrician for monitoring of weight status, nutritional status (including vitamin/mineral deficiencies), mental health status (including depression), physical activity levels, adherence to postoperative instructions provided by the surgeon or dietitian/nutritionist involved in care management after discharge from hospitalization following procedure completion), and any other issues related to successful management of weight loss goals over time.

Dr. Nicholson notes that while bariatric surgery can be effective in helping patients achieve long-term weight loss it should not be considered lightly: “Bariatric surgery carries risks like any other surgical procedure so it should only be considered after careful evaluation by a qualified physician who specializes in this type of procedure.”  He adds: “It is important for parents to understand that bariatric surgery is meant to be used as part of a comprehensive program including lifestyle changes such as healthy eating habits and regular physical activity.”

Dr. Nicholson concludes: “This is an important milestone in recognizing childhood obesity as a serious medical condition requiring intervention beyond just dieting or exercise alone.” He adds: “I am hopeful that these guidelines will help more families get access to safe treatments like bariatric surgery which can ultimately lead to improved quality of life for our youth.”

About Nicholson Clinic
One of the most experienced weight loss surgeons in the country – Dr. Nick Nicholson – along with a full staff of surgeons, physician assistants, and other experienced clinicians, help patients reverse obesity with Sleeve Gastrectomy, Gastric Bypass, Duodenal Switch, LAP-BAND, Gastric Balloon and Revisions.