OBESE children as young as 12 could undergo drastic stomach operations in a bid to help them lose weight if a trial planned at Sheffield Children’s Hospital is approved.
Doctors at the hospital are drawing up plans to put gastric balloons in 10 severely overweight teenagers youngsters a bid to discourage over-eating.
The procedure is effective in adults but very few studies have been done in children.
Dr Neil Wright, a consultant paediatrician and obesity specialist at the Children’s Hospital, said: “The gastric balloon is a treatment normally for adults and which as far as we know has never been trialled with teenagers in the UK.
“We see it as a possible alternative to gastric surgery for young people with severe weight problems.
“It is intended as an option for young people where other treatments have not been successful.
“This is not a quick fix as the lifestyle advice and support is very important in helping young people to lose weight and giving them the information they need in the future to manage a healthy lifestyle.”
If the proposals are approved by the hospital’s ethics committee later this year Dr Wright’s team will recruit 10 ‘morbidly obese’ youngsters, aged 13 and upwards.
The average weight for teenagers aged 13 to 16 is between seven and 10 stone. It is expected the people taking place in the study will weigh double the average - 14 to 20 stone, or more.
Dr Wright said: “If the trial is approved the team will be working with youngsters over a two year period to see if the balloons will kick start weight loss and with the help of the behavioural support programme keep the weight off in the long term.”
The procedure will involve a surgeon putting a balloon down the patient’s throat and into the stomach, where it will be inflated with salt water.
The balloon will fill the stomach so the teenager feels full and eats less food.
If the trial is approved patients will be recruited via GPs, hospital consultants and weight management programmes, and parents will be able to ask for their child be put forward for the trial.
If the trial generates good results the procedure could then be rolled out across the country, and could be used in children as young as 12.
Dr Wright said: “The lowest possible age we’d accept for the trial would be aged 12. A young person of this age would only be involved if they met strict medical guidelines – they would need to have already completed puberty and their bones would need to have matured so that they would have a skeletal age of 14.”