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Teens & Gastric Bands: Does Popular Weight-Loss Surgery Make Sense for Youngsters?

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(CBS) The demand for gastric banding surgery is growing along with Americans' waistlines, but does the weight-loss procedure make sense for teens as well as adults?

That question is now a hot topic in medical circles - and for overweight teens and their parents.

The 30-to-60-minute procedure, in which an inflatable silicone band is implanted around the top of the stomach to reduce its size, can trigger significant weight loss and is reversible. It's considered a less-invasive alternative to gastric bypass surgery, in which the size of the stomach is permanently reduced.

The operation is currently approved only for adults, according to Reuters. But it's up to doctors to decide who should get the surgery, and many teens already get it on what is called "off-label" basis.

There's little doubt that the surgery is effective. One study published last year showed that teens who underwent gastric band surgery lost 10 times more weight than teens who used dietary strategies and exercise, according to ABC News.

But data from an ongoing study suggests that gastric bands are less effective and more problematic for teens than adults, according to Reuters. Risks include erosion and slippage of the band, which could necessitate additional surgery and cause swallowing problems and other complications.

"Bands are definitely safe in the short term and definitely work in the short term," Dr Mary Brandt, director of pediatric surgery at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, told Reuters. "What we don't know is about the long term. I'm not saying it should never be used. We just have to be more careful about how we're using it."

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