Lipo at 12? Weight a Minute -- or a Few Years at Least

One pediatric nutritionist says diet control should have preceded the knife.

ByABC News
August 15, 2007, 1:04 PM

Aug. 15, 2007 — -- The scene: A 12-year-old who is 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds undergoes liposuction to lose weight.

She then gets a tummy tuck. She diets off some weight, but then the weight comes back on about half of what she'd lost altogether.

She gets worried and wants to have surgery so that she'll lose more weight. American doctors require "red tape," like testing for emotional readiness and medical conditions like sleep apnea. The family refuses, opting instead to take her to a surgeon in Mexico, who performs lap-banding surgery without all the tests required by the American docs.

First let me say that I'm glad that Brooke Bates is feeling better after all of this. I'm glad that she has lost some weight and that her health has improved.

I am not glad that she had liposuction. I'm also not glad that she went to Mexico to have a lap-banding surgery.

I can hear people saying, "Hey, lighten up, doc. She's thinner and happier." Let me explain my concerns.

First the liposuction. It's never been recommended for weight loss. It isn't effective.

This case proved that; Brooke soon began to gain weight after the procedure. Liposuction just removes localized deposits of fat. It's cosmetic surgery, period. It's what someone might consider after losing weight, who still has some fat bulges in unwanted places. You'll lose a few pounds, but it's mostly for appearance.

Lap banding, on the other hand, is done to facilitate weight loss.

Lap banding is a procedure in which a kind of strap is placed around the top of the stomach, preventing it from expanding, so that you get full by eating only small meals. Overeat, and you risk vomiting and some people do.

The procedure is not benign, and significant problems and malfunctions of the banding can occur.

Most surgeons performing weight loss surgeries like this one require potential patients, regardless of age, to undergo psychological counseling and several medical evaluations in order to determine whether they are good candidates who can emotionally handle the process and its results as well as to document serious acute conditions that might benefit from weight loss, such as sleep apnea.