Age & Bariatric Surgery:
Age is one of many very important factors in considering a prospective patient for bariatric surgery. A person’s age may determine their suitability for surgery, but in general, most bariatric surgeons will accept patients between the ages of 18 and 65. With the increased incidence of obesity, there has been a rise in demand from patients outside of this “safety zone,” but the suitability of surgery for those candidates is still being debated and is ultimately determined on a case-by-case basis.
Patients within this ideal age range will tend to have the lowest surgical risk profile, and as a result, will likely be able to heal and recover from surgery more effectively. This makes it more likely for the procedure to work as intended. Surgical facilities around the country do have adolescent and geriatric weight loss surgery programs, however they tend to be few and far between.
Risks of Adolescent Surgery
Younger patients who decide to undergo bariatric surgery take on additional risk because of their developmental processes. Though their bodies are generally able to heal rapidly and many of the side effects of surgery including hair loss and excess skin will be minimized when compared to older candidates, young patients risk stunting their growth and development after surgery. Longer-term effects on younger patients are still largely unknown. Patients under the age of 18 are still in their prime developmental years and surgical intervention for their weight-loss may have adverse effects on their growth. Most surgeons will place a greater emphasis on medical necessity when evaluating a younger patient.
Further, surgeons will try to avoid surgical intervention on an adolescent because the possibility of a successful post-surgical diet and excise program is reduced. Much of the success of a bariatric procedure comes from inner strength and determination. Younger patients may not have the psychological ability to grasp the responsibility that comes with such a dramatic lifestyle change.
Risks of Geriatric Surgery
Older patients have to be concerned with a diminished ability to heal after surgery, which can cause a higher incidence of infection. Even though bariatric surgery is performed laparoscopically, it is still major surgery. Therefore, the greater a person’s healing ability, the greater the likelihood of an uncomplicated recovery. As we age our blood vessels tend to harden and plaque accumulation over the years may reduce blood and oxygen flow to the stomach and abdominal area. Older patients may also be more susceptible to blood clotting, heart attack and stroke during surgery.
While age does not necessarily preclude someone from undergoing bariatric surgery, surgeons considering a procedure on a high-risk patient will need good reason.