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Inpatient Bariatric Procedures for Adolescents Appear to Have Plateaued Since 2003; Childhood Obesity Still on the Rise

December 18, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Inpatient bariatric procedures among adolescents have plateaued since 2003, according to a study by researchers at Children’s National Medical Center, published Online First by Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.

“Despite the growing epidemic of obesity among adolescents, the rate of surgery remained relatively constant after 2003, without substantial increase over the next six years,” the authors wrote.

The study, led by Deirdre Kelleher, MD, of the Children’s Division of General and Thoracic Surgery, provides insight into recent national trends in inpatient adolescent bariatric surgery. Despite recent commentaries to the contrary citing a marked increase in the number of bariatric surgery procedures in adolescents, this study is the first to show that in actuality, increases in surgical weight loss procedures have remained relatively steady since 2003. The data was drawn in a retrospective cross-sectional study utilizing the last four releases of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID), which is sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Dr. Kelleher and team, which also included Randall Burd, MD, PhD, chief of Children’s Trauma and Burns Division, and Evan Nadler, MD, a pediatric bariatric surgeon and co-director of the Children’s Obesity Institute, note that more than one third of surgeries are now performed using laparoscopic minimally invasive techniques and that even though patients electing to have weight-loss surgery today have more comorbidities at the time they undergo their procedure, the outcomes for these patients are increasing in success.

Dr. Nadler, who is also an international investigator into the genetics of obesity through the Children’s Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, noted, “New studies are being published every day, including in this journal, that show traditional behavioral interventions are not effective for adolescent patients with morbid obesity. If we aren’t treating them successfully with diet and exercise, and they aren’t undergoing surgery, how are we going to help these patients, and how will the obesity epidemic end?”

Several divisions within Children’s National Medical Center contributed to the research in this study, including the Division of General and Thoracic Surgery, the Obesity Institute, the Division of Trauma and Burn, and the Child Health Advocacy Institute.

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Contact: Jennifer Stinebiser or Emily Hartman, 202-476-4500.

About Children's National Health System

Children’s National Health System, based in Washington, D.C., has served the nation’s children since 1870. Children’s National is one of the nation’s Top 5 pediatric hospitals and, for a second straight year, is ranked No. 1 in newborn care, as well as ranked in all specialties evaluated by U.S. News & World Report. It has been designated two times as a Magnet® hospital, a designation given to hospitals that demonstrate the highest standards of nursing and patient care delivery. This pediatric academic health system offers expert care through a convenient, community-based primary care network and specialty outpatient centers in the D.C. Metropolitan area, including the Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia. Home to the Children’s Research Institute and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Children’s National is the seventh-highest NIH-funded pediatric institution in the nation. Children’s National is recognized for its expertise and innovation in pediatric care and as a strong voice for children through advocacy at the local, regional and national levels. 

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