Is weight loss surgery safe for teens?

LOS ANGELES At 347 pounds, 17-year-old Louis Garcia's blood pressure read 180 over 100. His health was deteriorating rapidly. His pediatrician suggested he get the /*Lap-Band*/, a device that tightens the top of the stomach and tricks the body into thinking it's full.

"I really needed the help, I use to eat a lot but not anymore," said Garcia.

Just one week after the surgery, he had already lost 10 pounds.

His surgeon Dr. Jeremy Korman of Marina Del Rey Hospital says for some obese teens it's the best option to address a grave situation. Research shows Garcia's generation may be first not to outlive their parents.

"I've determined it's the best way to save his life, absolutely to increase his life expectancy," said Dr. Korman.

Doing Lap-Band surgery in a teenager is considered experimental because it's not /*FDA*/ approved to people under the age of 18, but it can be used in teens at a doctor's discretion.

"It really has to be the right patient for the right reasons," said Dr. Korman.

He says long term studies show the Lap-Band can be used safely in young patients. It's designed to stay in for life, although the procedure is reversible.

One concerning question is if the government approves the Lap-Band for teenagers, will it be heavily marketed to this eager, young audience?

Dr. Korman says preying on insecure teens would be unethical and doctors would have to be even more vigilant when screening prospective patients.

"There's a screening process," said Dr. Korman. "We do screen people before they come in, we certainly are sensitive to why people need surgery, want to have surgery, and we take it very seriously," said Dr. Korman.

Garcia believes /*obesity surgery*/ is something others should look into.

"I would encourage them to do it because it's good for their health," he said.

Teens are still a very small percentage of most bariatric practices, but it may be an option more and more young people will investigate.

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