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Common Weight-Loss Surgery Can Weaken a Teen's Bones

TUESDAY, Nov. 24, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Sleeve gastrectomy, a procedure used to help obese people lose weight, may damage the bones of teen patients, a new study finds.

"Childhood obesity is a major public health issue that has increased over the last 10 years," said researcher Dr. Miriam Bredella, a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School. "Sleeve gastrectomy is the most common bariatric surgery procedure performed in children and adults."

In the procedure, about 75% of the stomach is removed to reduce how much someone can eat.

"In adults, bariatric surgery can have long-term effects on bone, leading to higher fracture risk," Bredella noted, saying the researchers wanted to focus on teens "during the crucial years when bone mass is being accrued."

For the study, researchers examined 52 obese teens, 26 of whom had a sleeve gastrectomy.

Before and a year after surgery, patients had a CT scan of the lumbar spine, to measure the amount of bone mineral density. Patients also had a proton MR spectroscopy to look at bone marrow fat.

Patients who had the procedure lost a significant amount of weight, but also had a significant increase in bone marrow fat and a decrease in bone density in the lumbar spine, the researchers found.

"Adolescents who underwent sleeve gastrectomy had bone loss and an increase in bone marrow fat, despite marked loss of body fat," Bredella said. "While weight-loss surgery is successful for weight loss and improving metabolic disorders, it has negative effects on bone."

Loss of bone density was expected, she said. Other effects of the surgery include disruption of hormones and nutrients important for bone health.

The findings were to be presented Tuesday at the virtual annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"We need to identify mechanisms that will help prevent bone loss in these patients and to make adolescents with obesity more aware of bone health," Bredella said in a meeting news release. "Adolescence is the critical time for bone mass accrual, and any process that interferes with bone accrual during this time can have dire consequences later in life."

More information

For more on weight-loss surgery, head to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Nov. 24, 2020

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