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Gastric Bypass Operation for Teens

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill reportingFor the first time in California, a Bay area pediatric hospital has performed gastric bypass surgery on an obese adolescent.

Without a doubt, this is a serious surgery that should only be performed as a last resort. Dr. Kim Mulvihill explains the benefits and the risks.

John Morton, M.D.: "We have a public health crisis right now and it's childhood obesity."

The number of overweight and obese American children and teenagers continues to grow and the dangers they face now and in the future is frightening.

John Morton, M.D./ Stanford Adult Bariatric Surgeon: "Being 18 years old, being diabetic, being overweight is no walk in the park. And we know those obese adolescents, 75 percent of them, will go on to be overweight adults."

Like adults, diets don't work for kids either. That's why surgeons at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital decided to add something new to their treatment options. It is the first gastric bypass surgery performed at a pediatric hospital in California. It happened last week.

With the roux-en-y gastric bypass, surgeons first staple off a large section of the stomach, next they transect the small intestine and advance the bowel up to the small part of the stomach.

Food bypasses much of stomach and part of the small intestine.

The first patient at Packard was an 18-year old female who weighed 270 pounds and had struggled with her weight since kindergarten.

Pediatric Surgeon Dr. Craig Albanese describes the night before surgery, his patient finally broke down and cried.

Dr. Craig Albanese/ Pediatric Surgeon: "She cried because she was very happy and all the times she didn't cry, it was a relief to get a new lease on life."

Pediatric patients and their families are carefully screened.

"If we don't do our homework and analzye the family unit, family meals and behavior at home and if one parent is obese then we can subject a child to a risky operation to have outeat the operation months or years down the road if it's not set up appropriately."

"Dr. Albanese and myself would love to never operte on these kids if we didn't have to. The problem is, there is not a lot of other things out there and we have to throw people a lifeline."

The surgery isn't for everyone. To qualify, teens must have a body mass index of more than 40 (normal is up to 24).

They also have to have at least one of three related illnesses: type-2 diabetes, sleep apnea or pseudotumor cerebri -- that's where increased pressure in the brain causes headaches and vision problems.

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