Learn more about childhood obesity and adolescent bariatric surgery on a St. Louis Children’s Hospital podcast with Shaina Eckhouse, MD.

The Washington University Weight Loss Surgery Program is the first American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence for adolescents, ages 15-18, in the state of Missouri.

The ASMBS issued best practice guidelines recommending bariatric surgery for carefully selected, extremely obese teens as the prevalence of childhood and adolescent obesity continues to increase. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 13.9% of 2- to 5-year-olds, 18.4% of 6- to 11-year-olds, and 20.6% of 12- to 19-year-olds in the United States are obese.* In addition, the overall rate of obesity in children and adolescents has risen 4.6% since 2000.**

Obese adolescents are more likely to have diabetes, hypertension and sleep apnea. In addition, obese adolescents have a high tendency to become obese adults. Studies showing improvement of major obesity-related diseases after weight loss surgery support the concept of early intervention for carefully selected adolescents patients.

Washington University weight loss surgeons typically offer gastric bypass surgery or sleeve gastrectomy, after consultation, to obese teens who meet the same criteria as adults:

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 with a major co-morbidity (other complication): type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, fatty liver disease, or pseudotumor cerebri (pressure in the skull increases for no apparent reason)
  • BMI of 40

Adolescents and their families considering weight loss surgery begin in the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Healthy Start Clinic. They are seen by an endocrinologist and a nurse practitioner, then attend a weight loss surgery seminar if they are a candidate. Health insurance companies typically require a 6-month period of medical weight loss.

Weight loss surgery requires major, lifetime eating and lifestyle changes. A pediatric behavioral specialist works with patients and their families to make sure psychosocial concerns are understood and managed, both before and after surgery.

J. Chris Eagon, MD, who has surgically treated obesity at Barnes-Jewish Hospital for 20 years, and Shaina Eckhouse, MD, fellowship-trained in pediatric bariatric surgery, are the weight loss surgeons who treat adolescent patients.

Surgeons who perform adolescent bariatric surgery:

For more information, call 314.454.7224.

*CDC, Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html

**National Center for Health Statistics, October 2017: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db288.pdf