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MIAMI, Florida — Amanda Rodriguez says gastric bypass surgery has changed her life and made her happy. She had the operation a day before her 17th birthday, and in the two years since has lost more than 100 pounds.
Rodriguez said being obese made her depressed in high school and that was the main reason she decided to have the surgery.
"In order for me to go to school, which was in high school, there were a few flights of steps that I couldn't even get up because I was so big and so heavy. I needed an elevator key to get up the stairs," she said. "It was really embarrassing."
Rodriguez is one of 890 teens in a recently released study looking at weight-loss surgery for adolescents. The University of Miami was the lead research site.
Why wait if you have a patient that is morbidly obese in their teenage years and there is an intervention available to them to help them live a healthier life as an adult, why not?
–Dr. Sarah Messiah
Results found that the teens lost an average of 66 pounds after one year. The patients had double the weight loss with gastric bypass compared to the adjustable band.
Only 29 gastric bypass and eight adjustable band patients needed reoperations. There was one cardiac death five months after surgery. There are still no long-term results from the study.
Read about research showing that weight-loss surgery can reverse diabetes here.
"Why wait if you have a patient that is morbidly obese in their teenage years and there is an intervention available to them to help them live a healthier life as an adult, why not?" asked UM pediatric researcher Dr. Sarah Messiah.
While children's obesity rates continue to increase, many pediatricians and parents hesitate to choose weight-loss surgery for teens.
UM bariatric surgeon Dr. Nestor de la Cruz Munoz sees it as a possible option for children, however.
"The youngest age I would do the operation? I'm not sure. Because if someone presented me with a 9- or 10-year-old that was severely morbidly obese, I would consider it," he said. "The youngest age we've done the surgery on is a 13- year-old."
Rodriguez, who is now a student at the University of Connecticut, says gastric bypass surgery has improved her life.
"I'm able to walk around the campus and I'm able to go on school field trips and kind of interact with really cute guys," she said.