Canadian Hospital Offers Surgery for Obese Children

Filed under: In The News

A hospital in Canada offers some obese children surgery designed to help them lose weight and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other potential killers.

The surgery is performed at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The hospital -- nicknamed SickKids -- is Canada's largest research hospital and one of the largest pediatric academic health science centers in the world.

The Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail reports physicians at the hospital are the first in Canada to routinely provide obesity surgery to children. The program officially launches this week.

According to the Globe and Mail, it is designed for children ages 12 to 17 with "complex obesity." That means they are overweight because of a medical condition such as a brain tumor.

In addition, they must have a serious condition, such as heart disease, that's made more dangerous by their weight. Or they must have a weight-related problem such as type 2 diabetes or life-threatening sleep apnea.

"We're really treating a proportion of children who suffer from much more serious problems related to their obesity," Jill Hamilton, the director of the program and an endocrinologist and associate scientist at the hospital, tells the Globe and Mail. "They have a very tough life."

However, she adds, the program will probably raise ethical questions about performing weight loss surgery on children. People may blame or judge patients or their families, she tells the paper.

"People will say, 'Oh they're too young to be doing surgery, this seems so radical,' but ... this is just [about] getting to a size where you can fit behind a desk in the classroom where the chair is attached," Hamilton tells the Globe and Mail.

Patients won't just get surgery, the newspaper reports. They will also go through an intense behavior modification program. Some kids may end up on meds and special diets, Hamilton tells the Globe and Mail.

Only about 50 patients will be treated every year. Of those, about a dozen are expected to need surgery, Hamilton tells the newspaper. She says she hopes to expand the program -- without the surgery -- to children ages 5 and under.

Obese kids need help, she says. "It's not such a straightforward issue of just eating less and exercising more," Hamilton tells the Globe and Mail.

"These are kids that really can't function very well," she adds. "We have these kids that have type 2 diabetes, that have hypertension, [that are on] medication. These kinds of things shouldn't be happening."

Related: Type 2 Diabetes in Children

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.