Adolescent Bariatric Surgery

Why Bariatric Surgery is an Option for Adolescents

Obesity affects 20% of adolescents. Obesity that starts in teenage years can lead to life-long health consequences including: high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems (asthma and sleep apnea), joint problems and high cholesterol.

The Denver Health Bariatric Surgery Center offers bariatric surgery to older adolescents and young adults ages 16-20. Bariatric surgery can be an effective treatment for many weight-related health issues even when medical and behavioral weight loss programs have failed. We focus on supporting our patients and their families/support team through the process of bariatric surgery and beyond to promote entering adulthood as healthy as possible.

Learn more about Adolescent Bariatric Surgery by exploring below:

How Obesity Can Affect Your Health

Obesity can affect your health as a teenager and into adulthood in a variety of ways. High blood pressure and high cholesterol brought on by obesity are risk factors for heart disease. Obesity is the major cause of type 2 diabetes as the body is more resistant to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar. Blood sugar becomes higher than normal when the body is resistant to insulin. Breathing problems such as asthma and sleep apnea are associated with obesity. Sleep apnea causes people to stop breathing while sleeping and leads to multiple awakenings during the night. As a result, some people experience excessive daytime sleepiness. Asthma risk increases with obesity. Your knees and hips experience stress due to excess weight resulting in osteoarthritis. The psychosocial effects of living with obesity can lead people to having low self-esteem.

Risk Factors for Obesity

  • Lifestyle
  • Genetics
  • Metabolism (how the body uses food to make energy)
  • Socioeconomics

Benefits of Bariatric Surgery

  • Improved lipid profile
  • Less high blood pressure
  • Improvement/remission of type 2 diabetes
  • Resolution of obstructive sleep apnea/breathing problems

Surgical Options

Both surgical options are done with small incisions (minimally invasively/laparoscopically).

Sleeve gastrectomy

In a sleeve gastrectomy, the stomach is made smaller by removing 80% of it. Patients lose weight by eating less without changing how food is digested. Excess weight loss of approximately 60% is expected within a year of surgery. This is the most common weight loss procedure performed.


Roux-en-Y gastric bypass

During the surgery, changes to the stomach and intestine are made that affect absorption and digestion of food.

The surgery team will work with you to help you decide which operation works best for you.

Who Qualifies to Get Adolescent Bariatric Surgery at Denver Health

In order to qualify to get bariatric surgery at Denver Health as an adolescent, you must meet the following requirements:

  • All patients (with their parents if under 18) must complete the steps to bariatric surgery outlined on this page, starting with watching the video, completing the online form and getting two referrals from a primary care provider
  • You are between the ages of 16-20.
  • You have a body mass index (BMI) in the 95th percentile or greater (BMI 40-65 or >35 with obesity-related medical conditions).
  • You have a support system (parents, family, spouse).
  • You are willing to accept a lifelong commitment to care after surgery and have realistic expectations of the results of the surgery.
  • You understand and agree to the procedure.


Common reasons patients may not qualify for bariatric surgery include:

  • Active substance abuse (including smoking)
  • Pregnancy
  • Planning for pregnancy within the year
  • Breastfeeding
  • Inability to understand the program/surgery
  • Having a disability (medical, cognitive, psychiatric) that prevents participation in the program and after care

What to Expect as an Adolescent Bariatric Surgery Patient

At the Denver Health Bariatric Surgery Center, our approach with adolescent bariatric surgery is patient- and family-centered. Our program is designed to offer a multidisciplinary care team, meaning adolescents and young adults will work with adolescent pediatricians with an expertise in obesity medicine, psychologists, nutritionists, pediatric and bariatric surgeons to ensure that you are prepared in every way for the surgery as well as the care after the procedure to ensure life-long success.

Click here to get started by watching our informational video!

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