Dutch hospitals start gastric reduction surgery for obese teens as young as 13
Hospitals in Veldhoven and Maastricht recently started a study in which certain obese Dutch teenagers between 13 and 17 can undergo stomach reduction surgery. The hospitals are investigating how these operations can be incorporated into regular care, the Volkskrant reports.
Doctors and healthcare providers from various disciplines - pediatricians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, psychologists, and dietitians - have struggled with this topic for eight years. Stomach reduction surgery requires life-long changes to the patient’s lifestyle, including daily vitamin supplements and not being allowed to drink any liquids within half an hour of consuming food.
But obesity also has serious consequences, not just for the teenager’s physical health, but also for their mental health and social life. Overweight people are more likely to become depressed, have more difficulty getting pregnant, find it more challenging to make friends, struggle more to find a job, and often earn less, Anita Vreugdenhill, a pediatrician and professor at the MUMC+, said to the newspaper.
Therefore, the experts agreed to strict guarantees that children must meet before they are eligible for a gastric bypass. There are between 5,000 and 10,000 teenagers in the Netherlands who are in the target group in terms of their weight and age. But only a small proportion of them will actually be eligible, Vreugdenhill said.
“A pediatrician must refer a patient to a center of expertise. There we look at whether they’ve tried everything for at least a year to reduce their weight with lifestyle changes, dieticians, psychologists, and family counseling. Only then do we nominate a patient to a national platform where specialists from different disciplines assess the patient again. And then there are intensive talks with the surgeon and the family.” After the surgery, the teen will receive at least five years of guidance in the lifestyle changes that accompany gastric reduction.
Studies in the United States and Scandinavia have shown that gastric reduction surgery has positive health effects. The study in Veldhoven and Maastricht aims to investigate how to best incorporate the surgery into the current care teens already receive.
The gastric reduction will not replace the current care, Francois van Dielen, initiator of the study and a surgeon at the Maxima MC, told the Volkskrant. “It is an addition to what we already offer. Of course, we must mainly focus on prevention and intensive guidance. But we must not forget that there are also young people who already have their backs against the walls. We also have to offer them something.”