Imagine having a toddler who is so big you can't pick him up. At night you tuck him into bed and listen to him struggle to breath due to obesity-related sleep apnoea.
That was the tragic situation that lead a Saudi Arabian family to book stomach reduction surgery for their two-year-old, making him the youngest person to ever undergo a bariatric operation.
Their son (above) weighed 33 kilos. And it worked. Within two months the boy lost 15 per cent of his body weight and two years after the 2010 surgery his weight had fallen to 24kg and his BMI of 24 was within the normal range.
Previous attempts to help him lose weight through diet failed. During one four-month period of dieting he actually gained eight kilos. So doctors consulted with his parents and booked him in for surgery.
The team of surgeons could have chosen to section off part of his stomach using a gastric band but took the permanent step of removing the outer layer of his stomach, thus reducing his appetite forever.
However Australia's head of 'bariatric' surgery, Associated Professor Wendy Brown, is against such surgeries for young children. "I was quite appalled, actually," she said. Her concern is that 'no one knows' the long-term health impacts of weight reduction surgery on toddlers. She says it could impact his long-term metabolism and mental state.
The obesity epidemic continues around the globe and more weight loss surgeries can be expected for young children.
Some in the medical profession think it is a step too far, advocating lifestyle changes for young children as opposed to surgery, however in a case like this, urgent intervention was thought to be necessary.
In Australia a child has to be at least 14 to undergo such procedures. However around the world patients are getting younger. In India a 4-year-old underwent the procedure however in this case the boy was diagnosed with Prader Willi Syndrome - a condition that sees a child become unusually hungry.
Do you think children should be allowed to have stomach surgery to combat obesity?
Image credit: Australian Doctor
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