New Guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Endorses Greater Access to Weight Loss Surgery for Adolescents With Severe Obesity

ATLANTA (Nov. 11, 2019) – Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is supportive of the newly released guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that endorses metabolic and bariatric weight loss surgery as a safe and effective option for adolescents with severe obesity.

According to the AAP, severe obesity affects 4.5 million U.S. children and adolescents. The guidance, which is based on a comprehensive review of literature and consultation with experts in surgical and medical pediatric weight management, outlines specific recommendations. This includes engaging with patients, family and the surgical team in a shared decision-making process that accounts for emotional and physical maturity, as well as an understanding of the short- and long-term implications. Additionally, it helps make sure that surgery is performed only in high-quality centers that can provide pediatric and family-specific care.

“The AAP statement is consistent with our guidelines for families and pediatricians to understand this is a viable option for adolescents struggling with severe obesity,” said Stephanie Walsh, MD, Medical Director of Children’s Strong4Life program. “Last year, we performed 24 adolescent bariatric surgeries and are slated to complete another 24 this year. The most important thing for people to understand is this is not a ‘quick fix’ solution and instead requires a long-term holistic approach, which makes it imperative that families choose a provider that has the most expertise in this emerging arena.”

Children’s was an early adopter of bariatric surgery for severe obesity cases in adolescents and first launched a dedicated program in 2005. Every new patient undergoes a series of AAP-supported, evidence-based guidelines and individualized assessments for risk and disease.

For some patients like Ruby Hernandez, now 19, the results are life-changing. Ruby was diagnosed with hidradenitis suppurativa, an autoimmune disease, at age 10. Symptoms are made worse if a patient is overweight, so Ruby knew she had to make a change to avoid future surgeries. At 5-foot, 8-inches tall, she weighed 315 pounds when she started in the Strong4Life Clinic Bariatric Program in December 2018. After diet and exercise, Ruby weighed 286 pounds on the day of her gastronomy sleeve in May 2019. Now, six months later, Ruby is down to 208 pounds. She exercises three times a week and walks whenever she can to get in extra steps.

“We are fortunate to be able to offer this program here at Children’s as a resource for Georgia families, and the AAP endorsement confirms what we’ve known for a long time: Surgery can be an effective option to give kids hope for the future,” said Mark Wulkan, MD, Chief of Surgery at Children's. “As one of the largest pediatric clinical care providers in the country, our specialization arms us with the right experience and expertise to handle individual teen needs.”

About Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

As the only freestanding pediatric healthcare system in Georgia, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is the trusted leader in caring for kids. The not-for-profit organization’s mission is to make kids better today and healthier tomorrow through more than 60 pediatric specialties and programs, top healthcare professionals, and leading research and technology. Children’s is one of the largest pediatric clinical care providers in the country, managing more than one million patient visits annually at three hospitals, Marcus Autism Center, the Center for Advanced Pediatrics, urgent care centers and neighborhood locations. Consistently ranked among the top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has impacted the lives of kids in Georgia, across the United States and around the world for more than 100 years thanks to generous support from the community.

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