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For teens already trying to navigate the rocky road of adolescence, dealing with the stresses of obesity can be tough. It can complicate not only a young person’s physical health, but their mental and emotional wellbeing, too. That’s why we’ve designed our program with their unique needs in mind. And why our team includes surgeons, nurses, dietitians, adolescent medicine specialists, and even adolescent psychologists.
Understanding the difficulties teens face, our specialists support every step of their wellness journey, and help them understand that choosing weight-loss surgery as a teen is a commitment to lifelong health.
“We’re not only experienced at performing surgeries on adolescent patients, we also have the resources to help them succeed after surgery,” says John Paul Gonzalvo, DO, a bariatric surgeon with AdventHealth Tampa.
What Surgical Options are Recommended for Teens?
Teens who meet certain criteria, and who haven’t had success with other weight loss methods, may be good candidates for surgical bariatric procedures, such as:
- Gastric bypass: Involves creating a small stomach pouch out of the upper part of the stomach. This new stomach is about 2 to 3 ounces in size. Gastric bypass operations are more complicated in scope than the sleeve gastrectomy and take longer to perform, but they do offer greater opportunity for weight loss
- Sleeve gastrectomy: The most common surgical option performed on adolescent bariatric patients. It removes about 80% of the stomach, leaving a long, narrow stomach that is significantly smaller—holding only about 4 to 6 ounces — than a normal stomach
Both options are permanent, and both result in significant weight loss for teens with severe obesity. Still, Dr. Gonzalvo says, “because teenagers already have a better metabolism than adults, they’re able to lose weight well with either surgery, which is why the less-invasive sleeve gastrectomy is performed more often.”
Who Qualifies for Adolescent Bariatric Surgery?
To qualify for adolescent bariatric surgery at AdventHealth Tampa, a teen and their parent or guardian must undergo a six-month preparatory phase. This educational period ensures teens and their families learn — and demonstrate their understanding — that weight loss surgery is only successful when paired with significant, lifelong lifestyle changes.
“We have to make sure they’re truly committed to the lifestyle changes that are needed to make surgery successful long-term, including regular exercise and a healthy diet,” Dr. Gonzalvo says.
Teens must be at least 15 years old to enter the program, and 16 or older to have the surgery. They must also have a BMI of 40, or 35 with a weight-related condition, such as diabetes, sleep apnea or high cholesterol.
What Sets Our Bariatric Program Apart?
Our adolescent bariatric surgery program is one of the few accredited programs for adolescent weight loss surgery in both the region and the state of Florida. This accreditation demonstrates our commitment to quality patient care, and to understanding the specific needs of our teen patients.
“We have a strong, robust team here to help patients through the process, so they understand the surgery they’re getting and their role in it,” Dr. Gonzalvo says. “And I believe this team approach is our advantage. It’s not common in other programs, and it’s what makes us unique.”
What are the Benefits of Bariatric Surgery for Teens?
Bariatric surgery doesn’t just help patients lose weight. It can also help reverse the effects of weight-related conditions like sleep apnea, high blood pressure and diabetes. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, many adolescent patients were able to resolve their Type 2 diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, GERD and sleep apnea in a matter of months, post-surgery.
In addition to improved physical health, another significant change we often see is improved mental and emotional health.
According to Dr. Gonzalvo, this improvement is another dramatic change we see in some of our teens. “We see kids go from relatively shy, introverted adolescents to talkative young adults telling you about the normal life experiences they’re having. Their interactions with people change. Their self-esteem improves. And it’s a joy to really see them blossom,” he says.