Weight-Loss Surgery (Bariatric Surgery) Program
After feeling like she had exhausted her weight-loss options, Sabrina came to Children's National to achieve her goal of a healthier lifestyle.
Childhood obesity is a complex condition that dramatically increases the risk for other serious health problems. Perhaps your child has tried many different weight-loss methods without success. Bariatric (weight-loss) surgery is a procedure that can help adolescents reach a healthier weight, when combined with lifestyle changes. At Children’s National Health System, our pediatric surgeons specialize in performing weight-loss procedures for children and teenagers and provide a range of support services to help your family achieve a healthier lifestyle.
Bariatric Surgery at Children’s National: Our Approach
Children and teenagers have unique physical and emotional needs, and it is important that they receive care in a dedicated pediatric center. Most weight-loss programs are adult-centric, though they may accept teenage patients as well. Children’s National is one of the few centers in the country dedicated to pediatric bariatric surgery. Our surgeons are board-certified in both general surgery and pediatric surgery. Additionally, we are accredited by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP®). This designation makes Children’s National one of the first children’s hospitals to receive such accreditation, and the only hospital in the area to be accredited to perform bariatric surgery on adolescents.
We know that weight-loss surgery is not a decision you and your child are making lightly. Together with your family, we create a strong support system to help teens adjust to their new bodies and lifestyle changes. Our teen-centered approach features:
- Dedicated pediatric surgical team. Our team includes a wide range of pediatric specialists who understand that children are not simply “mini-adults.” We work with each other and with your family to provide the best outcome possible.
- Level 1 Surgery Verification. Children’s National is one of only twelve children’s hospitals in the country to attain Level 1 Surgery Verification from the American College of Surgeons. This distinction recognizes surgery centers who have improved surgical quality, prevented complications, reduced costs and saved lives.
- Time and attention. Your child may have their own questions about the procedure and their post-surgery bodies. Our team includes child psychologists who can talk to your child and address any questions or concerns he or she may have.
- Family focus. We strongly emphasize family education, and we encourage family members to be active participants in the healthcare team.
- Personalized care. We work with you and your child to develop a personalized lifestyle and follow-up plan for your child to adhere to after the surgery.
Evan Nadler, M.D., Surgeon and Co-Director at the Children’s National Obesity Institute, discusses some of the reasons children and adolescents opt for weight loss surgery, misconceptions about the procedure, recovery time and the importance of maintaining healthy eating habits.
Bariatric Surgery for Adolescents in Washington, D.C.
Our Bariatric Surgery Program helps adolescents with morbid obesity. Doctors define “morbidly obese” as being overweight to the point where it interferes with daily functioning.
If you are considering weight-loss surgery for your child or teenager, talk to one of our pediatric surgical specialists. We recommend you do the procedure earlier in adolescence rather than later, since a teen will continue to gain weight as he or she grows, lessening the benefits of the surgery. At Children’s National, we are dedicated to providing teens with a safe, effective surgery and successful outcome. After a year, our patients lose an average of 70-100 pounds (sometimes more). In addition to maintaining a healthy weight, bariatric surgery reduces the risk of developing other diseases:
- Heart disease
The Bariatric Surgery Team at Children’s National
Our pediatric surgeons have years of experience in performing bariatric surgery. In addition, we are among the nation’s top experts in the field, training other pediatric surgeons around the country in weight-loss surgery for children. We are also extensively involved in research, analyzing tissue from our patients to gain a better understanding of childhood obesity with the goal of personalizing treatment for each patient.
The program’s multidisciplinary team includes many different pediatric specialists, working together to ensure your child’s safe and successful outcome. Our team includes:
- Child psychologists and psychiatrists
- Physical therapists
- Otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat specialist)
- Staff nurses
- Social workers
Bariatric Surgery Procedures for Adolescents
We perform three types of weight-loss procedures:
- Sleeve gastrectomy. During this procedure, the surgeon removes a large part of the stomach. This affects how much a child can eat, but not how the body absorbs food and nutrients. We use this procedure most often for adolescents. Learn more about sleeve gastrectomy at Children’s National.
- LAP-BAND®. The surgeon wraps an adjustable band around the stomach. It reduces the amount of food a child can eat, but does it not affect nutrient absorption. This procedure is FDA-approved only for people 18 years of age and older. Learn more about the LAP-BAND procedure at Children’s National.
- Gastric bypass. This procedure does two things: It makes the stomach smaller, limiting how much food you can eat. It also causes food to bypass parts of the small intestines, reducing how much food and nutrients the body absorbs. Because it affects absorption of nutrients, we generally do not recommend this procedure for children and teenagers.
Adolescent Weight-Loss Surgery: Who is a Candidate?
You may be wondering if your child is a candidate for bariatric surgery. Candidates must meet these requirements:
- Have a history of obesity for at least three years
- Tried other weight-loss programs without success
- Have a BMI of at least 35 with an obesity-related condition OR a BMI of greater than 40 without an obesity-related condition
- Understand the lifelong dietary commitment required after the surgery
- Complete all clinically required laboratory and diagnostic tests
- Have confirmation from a psychologist or psychiatrist that he/she is mature enough to comply with the requirements
- Complete follow-up visits for three years after surgery
For more information, call us at 1-202-476-2151.
Weight-Loss Surgery (Bariatric Surgery) Program Team
Director, Bariatric Surgery Program
Co-Director, Obesity Program