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Helping teens with weight problems LVHN provides adolescent bariatric surgeries as part of early intervention

Lehigh Valley Health Network is now offering bariatric surgery for teens ages 16 and 17. LVHN is the first health network in the region to offer adolescent bariatric surgery.

The program is in partnership with Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital and Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence.

“We are proud to bring this state-of-the-art and transformative care closer to home,” says Brian Leader, Director, Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence. “There is substantiated scientific evidence supporting the use of bariatric surgery to improve the health of adolescents.”

When is bariatric surgery the right choice?

Obesity is a serious and complex health issue affecting millions of adolescents. For teens who have been unsuccessful at losing weight through traditional weight-loss measures or suffer from obesity-related health conditions, bariatric surgery is a safe, effective treatment toward developing a healthier and more active life.

Adolescents undergo bariatric surgery at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest and are transferred for postoperative care to the Children’s Hospital’s pediatric unit on campus.

All bariatric surgeries are conducted using robotic-assisted surgery, which results in less pain, fewer complications and quicker recovery.

Adolescents are typically recommended for gastric sleeve weight-loss surgery, which works by reducing the size of the stomach. Some teen patients benefit from gastric bypass (also called Roux-en-Y) surgery.

This option, which restricts food intake and prevents the body from absorbing calories, also helps manage acid reflux. Bariatric surgeons work with patient families to choose the right option for their unique needs.

Both bariatric surgery options are proven to result in significant weight loss. They also resolve high blood pressure in 70 percent of patients and Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea in 80 percent.

“The primary focus of the adolescent bariatric program is improving the long-term health of teens struggling with obesity,” says Richard Boorse, MD, with LVPG General, Bariatric and Trauma Surgery. “But the added benefits to self-esteem and life experiences are immeasurable.”

Benefits and eligibility

Health-related benefits may include:

• Reverses weight-related health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension and decreases the risk for Blount’s disease (tibia vara) and slipped capital femoral epiphysis.

• Often eliminates sleep apnea and reduces the risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

• Improves mobility and reduction in walking-related pain

• Decreases risk for developing cardiovascular disease as an adult

Eligibility requirements for adolescent surgery include:

• Body mass index 40 or greater

• BMI 35 or greater when accompanied by an obesity-related health condition

Bariatric medicine is more than surgery

LVHN Weight Management Center utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to provide teens the education and support needed to prepare for bariatric surgery.

After enrolling in the program, teens and their families attend required pre-operative nutrition and counseling classes. Before the surgery, teens are required to commit to dietary changes.

Following the procedure, teens will stay in Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital, typically for two nights. The program then provides post-surgical weight management strategies addressing diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes.

Someone interested in learning about adolescent bariatric surgery can schedule a consultation with a nurse navigator by calling 888-402-LVHN (5846).

Lehigh Valley Health Network is working on an early intervention procedure to help adolescents who have weight issues. METROGRAPHICS