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Potential Candidates for Bariatric Surgery

Who is a good adult candidate for bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery may be an option for adults who have

  • a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more, OR
  • a BMI of 35 or more with a serious health problem linked to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or sleep apnea
  • a BMI of 30 or more with a serious health problem linked to obesity, for the gastric band only

Having surgery to lose weight is a serious decision. If you are thinking about having bariatric surgery, you should know what’s involved. Your answers to the following questions may help you decide if surgery is an option for you:

  • Have you been unable to lose weight or keep it off using nonsurgical methods such as lifestyle changes or drug treatment?
  • Do you understand what the operation involves and its risks and benefits?
  • Do you understand how your eating and physical activity patterns will need to change after you have surgery?
  • Can you commit to following lifelong healthy eating and physical activity habits, medical follow-up, and the need to take extra vitamins and minerals?

Who is a good teen candidate for bariatric surgery?

Doctors sometimes use bariatric surgery to treat teens with severe obesity who also have obesity-related health problems. Bariatric surgery often improves health problems that could grow worse in adulthood if the teen remains obese.

Surgery may be an option for teens who have gone through puberty and reached their adult height, and have

  • a BMI of 35 or more with serious obesity-related health problems, such as type 2 diabetes or severe sleep apnea, OR
  • a BMI of 40 or more with less severe health problems, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol2
A photo of a woman smiling
Bariatric surgery may be an option for teens who have a BMI of 35 or more.

Studies suggest that bariatric surgery is fairly safe for teens and can improve health problems such as type 2 diabetes for at least 3 years after surgery. Teens who took part in a study that followed them for 3 years after surgery lost an average of 90 pounds and kept most of the weight off.3 They also reported improved quality of life related to their weight. Researchers continue to study the long-term effects, which currently are unknown.

Like adults, teens who are thinking about weight-loss surgery should be prepared for the lifestyle changes they will need to make after the surgery. A surgical center that focuses on the unique needs of youth may help the teen patient prepare for and adjust to these changes. Parents and caregivers also should be prepared and ready to support their child.

References

July 2016
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Anita Courcoulas, M.D., M.P.H, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Walter J. Pories, M.D., F.A.C.S., Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University