Surgery Helps Severely Obese Teens Live Longer, Children's Study Finds

May 16, 2019

A new study involving Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center finds early intervention, like gastric bypass surgery, helps severely obese adolescents control Type 2 diabetes and possibly throw it into remission.

The five-year study published in The New England Journal of Medicine finds teens with surgical intervention have a 35% greater chance of sending diabetes into remission than adults with surgical intervention.

"Early identification and treatment of Type 2 diabetes in adolescents is critical to reducing the lifelong morbidity and mortality linked to the disease," says Michael Helmrath, M.D., study co-investigator and director of bariatric surgery at Cincinnati Children's.

Michael Helmrath, M.D., study co-investigator and director of bariatric surgery at Cincinnati Children's.

"The disease is different in adolescents than adults," he says. "In many cases it progresses rapidly, even with medications. But despite their more aggressive form of Type 2 diabetes, our study shows teens still have greater benefit from earlier interventions like bariatric surgery."

The study's major findings include:

  • Overall weight loss between adolescents and adults was similar, with 26% weight reduction in teens and 29% reduction in adults.
  • Adolescents were 35% more likely to experience remission of Type 2 diabetes than adults. For patients with diabetes at baseline, 86% of adolescents and 53% of adults experienced remission five years after undergoing surgery.
  • Adolescents were 51% more likely to experience remission of high blood pressure than adults. Among patients with high blood pressure at baseline, 68% of adolescents and 41 percent of adults experienced remission at five years.
  • Adolescents underwent more subsequent abdominal operations and had lower iron and vitamin A stores than adults over the five years of the study. The types of subsequent operations that adolescents and adults underwent were similar, however.

Children's says research is beginning to suggest that successfully intervening earlier with other non-surgical methods, including diet and lifestyle changes, also may produce dramatic disease reversal in adolescents.