More and more kids are becoming obese. And for some of those kids, shedding the extra weight may only be possible with surgery.
Now a new study reveals that approach could be far more beneficial than first thought.
For most of her life, Jascey Vermillion struggled to lose weight through diet and exercise alone.
Like a growing number of teenagers, she had bariatric surgery and in just ninety days lost more than 70 pounds.
Jascey says, "It's made my life so much better. I'm happier and I'm getting to know more people, and it's just changed everything."
But Jascey's life may have changed even more than she realizes. Before undergoing weight loss surgery every teenager is put through rigorous testing.
But in a recent study, researchers took it a step further, doing sophisticated tests on the teenagers' hearts as well.
Dr. John Bauer, with Nationwide Children's Hospital says, "What we found was that the cardiac structure and function in these extremely obese adolescents scheduled for bariatric surgery, was much more impaired than one might."
Doctors performed cardiac MRI's on teen patients and while following ten of them for a recent study, they found many had hearts that were larger and much less efficient than normal.
But after weight loss surgery, that changed. Dr. Marc Michalsky, with Nationwide Children's Hospital says, "Many of the abnormalities that we documented during the initial baseline study, actually showed significant improvement after the weight loss had been obtained."
In fact, the study found that enlarged hearts got smaller, blood flow improved in all the patients, and in 60% it completely normalized.
Because they are young and rarely show cardiac risk factors, few patients like Jascey ever get high-tech heart testing before surgery.
But this study may help change that. Dr. Bauer says, "The bad news is that they probably are at more risk than most people had considered, the good news is, that bariatric surgery definitely has a capacity to reverse some of this, at least."
Doctors found many of these teenagers have hearts that look more like those of middle aged patients, and researchers have never seen that before.
The study is published in the journal of pediatric surgery.