U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Bariatric Surgery in Teens Leads to Relatively Few Short-term Complications

​In a new study in adolescents with severe obesity and weight-related health problems who underwent bariatric surgery, researchers found few incidences of major complications in the first 30 days after the surgery.  Children and teens who are obese—and particularly those with severe obesity—are at increased risk for developing serious diseases both during their youth and later in adulthood.  In youth, obesity is often accompanied by other adverse health conditions, such as sleep apnea, joint pain, hypertension, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.  For adolescents who are severely obese, lifestyle changes are important, but when lifestyle interventions alone do not reduce obesity and ameliorate its associated health conditions, additional therapies may be considered, such as surgery.  However, despite the use of this surgery in clinical practice in adolescents, there has been limited data on its outcomes.  Thus, the Teen-Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (Teen-LABS) study was launched in 2007 to assess the short- and long-term risks and benefits of bariatric surgery among teens with severe obesity.  This is an observational study that enrolled teens who were already planning to have bariatric surgery.

Researchers from five U.S. Teen-LABS centers have now analyzed and reported short-term outcomes of three bariatric surgery techniques: Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and gastric banding.  A cohort of 242 study participants, aged 19 and under, was evaluated for major, or life-threatening, complications (e.g., bowel obstruction/bleeding, gastrointestinal leaking, deep vein thrombosis, splenectomy), as well as for minor (non-life-threatening) complications (e.g., pneumonia, urinary tract infections or other complications, bowel injury, hypertension).  At 30 days after surgery, there were no deaths; 8 percent of the participants experienced major complications; and 15 percent experienced minor complications.  Thus, over the short term, bariatric surgery led to relatively few complications.  While the study is limited by a lack of ethnic diversity, the standardized data collection procedures, multi-site enrollment, and comprehensive study design provide valuable information that could help inform healthcare providers.  Importantly, Teen-LABS investigators will continue to study the participants to determine longer-term safety, health, and weight outcomes of bariatric surgery in teens.

Inge TH, Zeller MH, Jenkins TM, Helmrath M, Brandt ML, Michalsky MP, Harmon CM, Courcoulas A, Horlick M, Xanthakos SA, Dolan L, Mitsnefes M, Barnett SJ, Buncher R; Teen-LABS Consortium. Preoperative outcomes of adolescents undergoing bariatric surgery: the Teen-Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (Teen-LABS) study. JAMA Pediatr 168: 47-53, 2014.