Gastric Banding Concerns for Teenagers

The gastric banding industry is poised to grow as U.S. regulators consider granting permission to perform the procedure on the nation’s bulging ranks of overweight teens.

Allergan the industry leader has an application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seeking approval to market the device to teens as young as 14. A decision could come any time. Winning regulatory approval for the gastric band in teenagers would allow the companies that make the devices – Allergan, Johnson & Johnson and others – to target that specific age group in their advertising campaigns.

There is concern on the part of some doctors who worry about the device’s long-term safety and effectiveness. Dr. Susan Woolford, Medical Director of the Pediatric Comprehensive Weight Management Center at the University of Michigan, conducted a study, published in Obesity Surgery, to determine how readily primary care physicians and pediatricians would refer patients for bariatric surgery. Nearly half, or 48 per cent of the 381 physicians surveyed, said they would never refer an adolescent for any type of bariatric surgery.

Gastric banding may lead to a successful result provided patients stick to a rigorous follow-up routine. This depends most on a patient’s ability to modify the behaviour that led to the obese weight gain. With teenagers it is important that follow on support measures are put in place. This should include psychological assessment prior to the surgery with behavioural and nutritional counselling. Omission of these steps is likely to constitute gastric banding malpractice.

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