The Adolescent Bariatric Program works with teens and young adults age 15 to 20 whose health is affected by obesity and who want to consider weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery).

For some people, following a medically approved diet and exercise plan is enough to lose weight and improve obesity-related illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease or obstructive sleep apnea. When these major lifestyle changes are not enough, bariatric surgery might be an option.

It is not a quick fix or an easy way out. There is a lot of hard work involved. But if your teen’s health is compromised and they are willing and able to make the commitment, surgery may be an option that can change their life.

Why choose Seattle Children’s Adolescent Bariatric Program?

Seattle Children’s collaborates with University of Washington (UW) Medicine Weight Loss Management Center to offer bariatric surgery to teens and young adults. Together, we have the only program in Washington approved by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP) to provide bariatric surgery to adolescents.

    • The Adolescent Bariatric Program team specializes in the physical, mental, emotional and social needs of adolescents. We know how to help your teen make the major life changes that come with bariatric surgery — as they make the major change from childhood to adulthood.
    • Medical providers, dietitians, athletic trainers and social workers work together closely to prepare your teen and family for surgery and support you after surgery in ways that are tailored to you.
    • Based on your teen’s medical needs, we will involve Seattle Children’s specialists from other areas, such as Endocrinology and Diabetes, Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Nephrology, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine and Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine.
    • To coordinate care, the teams from Seattle Children’s Adolescent Bariatric Program and UW Medicine Weight Loss Management Center meet monthly to discuss each patient’s treatment.

    • Bariatric surgery for adolescents is new and innovative — which is one reason no other program in the state has earned MBSAQIP approval.
    • Seattle Children’s joined with UW Medicine to help ensure that teens and young adults who have bariatric surgery get medical care and support that meets their unique developmental needs.
    • Our focus is on your teen’s safety throughout the process and on their lifelong health. Health benefits of bariatric surgery may include:
      • Reversing type 2 diabetes
      • Lowering high cholesterol back to normal
      • Improving other serious medical problems, such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea and liver disease

    We designed our program to help adolescents achieve these benefits safely and then maintain good health for the rest of their life.

    • Your teen’s team at Seattle Children’s addresses all aspects of their physical health, from helping them set up a schedule for taking their medications to explaining how obesity and weight loss affect fertility.
    • To take care of your teen’s mental and emotional health, we treat conditions like depression and anxiety and discuss how to deal with teasing or bullying.
    • Losing weight is challenging. We talk with your teen and family to understand any challenges you might face, learn about the support you already have and find ways we can provide additional support. We work to build on your strengths.
    • If your teen needs a 504 plan (for accommodations or modifications at school due to a disability, like degenerative joint disease), we work with you to get a plan in place.

    • Seattle Children’s Adolescent Medicine providers see teens and families at many locations around the Seattle area for evaluations and follow-up visits.
    • The Adolescent Wellness Intensive Program — one part of preparing for bariatric surgery — takes place in Seattle. If your family cannot attend the weekly sessions because you live outside the area, your team will work with you to come up with an alternative.
    • If your teen decides to have bariatric surgery somewhere other than UW Medicine Weight Loss Management Center, our Adolescent Bariatric Program experts are still available to provide care and support.

Conditions We Treat

Bariatric surgery is for teens and young adults who are obese. Most consider bariatric surgery because they also have other medical conditions related to weight, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Increased brain pressure (benign intracranial hypertension, formerly called pseudotumor cerebri)
  • High cholesterol and high triglycerides

To be eligible for bariatric surgery, your adolescent must:

  • Be 15 or older and physically mature and healthy enough for surgery.
  • Have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher (35 or higher with diabetes). This is a common guideline; your insurance may have different requirements.
  • Have associated co-morbidities (this is specific to your insurance carrier, but may include: diabetes, degenerative joint disease, and/or increased brain pressure).

Services We Provide

  • The first step is an appointment with a medical provider from Seattle Children’s Adolescent Medicine Program, who will assess your teen’s health and talk with you and your teen about your goals and the path to bariatric surgery.

    If your teen is eligible for surgery and your family wants to move forward, the provider will refer you to the Adolescent Bariatric Program team. You will need to come to separate appointments for more in-depth evaluation with:

    • A registered dietitian
    • An athletic trainer
    • A social worker

    We may also refer you to community behavioral/mental health or other Seattle Children’s experts to get a complete understanding of your teen’s health.

  • The next step toward surgery is for your teen to take part in the Adolescent Wellness Intensive Program (AWIP) along with a family member. AWIP is a 16-week weight management program that focuses on a positive lifestyle, including nutrition, exercise, mood and family communication.

    Your family should expect at least 30 visits, including:

    • Individual appointments with a medical provider, dietitian, athletic trainer and social worker
    • A weekly 3-hour group meeting

    Your AWIP team evaluates:

    • If your teen can stick to nutritional and medical guidelines after surgery
    • If your teen can understand and agree to surgery
    • If your teen is ready to make adult decisions to support their health and well-being
    • If your teen has family support that will help them stick to guidelines after surgery

  • After you complete AWIP, the Seattle Children’s team works with you to get approval for bariatric surgery from your insurance plan. Each insurer has its own set of guidelines.

  • If your insurer approves surgery, we refer you to the bariatric surgery team at UW Medicine Weight Loss Management Center. The team includes:

    • A surgeon
    • A registered dietitian
    • A social worker
    • A psychologist
    • A care coordinator
    • A nurse

    They evaluate whether surgery is an option for your teen, work with your family to prepare for the procedure and help you with your insurance. Surgery takes place at UW Medical Center.

  • The UW bariatric surgery team sees your teen for follow-up visits, typically for the first 6 months after surgery.

    Your Seattle Children’s team also keeps seeing your teen on a regular basis throughout the process, even after we refer you to UW Medicine. We are here before and after surgery to provide the ongoing care and support that help ensure success.

    When your teen is ready to leave home for college or to live on their own, we work with them on maintaining their health as they become more independent. As our patients near age 21, we help them transition to adult care to stay healthy.

Scheduling an Appointment with the Adolescent Bariatric Program

  • If you would like a referral to Adolescent Medicine for an evaluation or to discuss the Adolescent Bariatric Program, talk to your primary care provider. If you already have a referral, please call 206-987-2028 to schedule an appointment.
  • If you already have an appointment, learn more about what to expect and how to prepare.
  • Learn about Adolescent Bariatric Program resources such as useful links and recommended reading for you and your family.

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