The number of overweight young people is growing. Unlike their adult counterparts, however, they did not qualify for gastric bypass surgery until recently. François van Dielen, obesity surgeon at the Máxima Medical Centre in Veldhoven and Eindhoven, is keen to change this.
Many people who suffer from severe obesity have often tried all kinds of things to lose weight. They don’t succeed or they gain weight again after some time. According to MMC, this can be dangerous for their health, think diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A stomach-reducing operation can then help.
In the Netherlands, this has so far only been allowed in people aged 18 and older. In young people, a so-called gastric bypass may only be performed in study settings. Máxima Medical Centre, in collaboration with Maastricht UMC, has started a study. This will investigate how gastric bypass surgery can become part of the care for overweight 13- to 17-year-olds.
In young people, good results are seen abroad. “With the study, we expect to be able to demonstrate that gastric bypass surgery, as part of a comprehensive counselling programme for severely overweight adolescents, provides huge health gains for the adolescents and increases their life expectancy,” says Van Dielen. “Ultimately, our goal is to significantly improve the quality of life of these young people now and in the future.”
Within the study, Van Dielen is collaborating with COACH, one of five Dutch centres of expertise in adolescent obesity, which has experience in guiding young people in improving their lifestyle. Children who may be eligible for a stomach reduction are first intensively screened and guided by the experts in Maastricht prior to surgery. “After all, a young person cannot just join the study,” says paediatrician Anita Vreugdenhil of Maastricht UMC. “There is a strict selection procedure involved.”
Green light only follows when there is a positive decision from a national platform, which consists of a team of experts including a paediatrician, a surgeon, a psychologist and a dietician. So only a small percentage actually qualify for surgery. These are mainly young people who may already have diabetes or other weight-related conditions before the age of 18.
After the strict selection procedure, these young people are operated on at the Máxima Medical Centre. This hospital has specialised in gastric surgery and obesity care for some 40 years.
Translated by Simge Taşdemir