An obese 2-year-old from Saudi Arabia has become the youngest person in the world to undergo a gastrectomy- a surgery where most of the stomach is cut away.
The child, who weighed 33kg by the age of 2 and had a Body Mass Index of 41 had suffered severe breathing problems while asleep. In an article in the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports, his surgeons wrote that two attempts to control his weight by dieting failed.
The doctors, then decided to perform what’s called a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, which involves permanently removing 60 to 85% of the stomach and restricting food intake.
Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician in Atlanta, said such a procedure should be a last resort, and only after close monitoring and dieting have been attempted and proven to be unsuccessful, reported the CNN.
If doctors had not performed the surgery, the boy could have faced physical problems such as pain, injuries and bowed legs, heart disease and diabetes down the road and even death, from the lack of oxygen caused by the sleeping disorder.
Shu says the current recommendation is to wait until the child is done growing or close to it, which is around 13 for girls and 15 for boys before considering bariatric surgery.
The long-term impact such a surgery could have on the child’s development is unknown. “The brain just grows so rapidly between birth to 3 years old, he’s still in that very phase of development,” said Shu. “So we don’t know what kind of effects the surgery may have.”
The universal feeling about this case was sorrow for this little boy. Many feel this was an extreme measure and better alternatives should have been taken.
“I truly hope that pediatric gastric bypass surgery doesn’t become just another ‘norm’ in our culture of instant gratification and ‘easy fixes,’ ” said Wortz, a mom, nurse practitioner and one of the co-founders of the blog, Mom Colored Glasses.
18-year-old Maria Caprigno, who weighed 443 pounds when she was just 14 was one of the youngest people ever to have bariatric surgery.
“We definitely need to recognize that there’s no one to blame for this and that there are genetic components that play a part, lifestyle plays a part, and we just need to change how we view obesity because there’s such a stigma,” said Caprigno, who currently works with the nonprofit the Obesity Action Coalition.
“We try to get everyone to understand that this is a disease. It’s not something we choose,” she added.