Parents Now Pushing Unneeded Surgeries on Obese Kids
The New York Times reports that parents of obese kids are increasingly treating gallbladder ailments by having their children undergo invasive operations to remove the organ.
Here's the thing: Most of the time, the kids don't need surgery -- their problems could be corrected with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.
Obesity now causes most gallbladder disease in minors -- and some four times as many are being removed as in 1990.
One of the worst parts? Kids who get these operations might have to contend with medical problems as adults.
Columnist Dr. Catherine Musemech notes:
"The gallbladder, unlike the appendix, has a function in the human body, storing and releasing bile to aid in digestion. Without a gallbladder, bile drips into the gastrointestinal tract 24/7. While a person can live a normal life without one, some patients do experience side effects, such as chronic diarrhea or acid reflux. No one knows for certain the long-term consequences of taking out the gallbladder over the lifespan of a child, but thousands are going to find out in the decades ahead."
Now, there is some good news. It's possible that the childhood obesity epidemic has leveled off across the U.S., which might mean that the demand for this type of short-sighted solution will level off, too.
Unfortunately, though, America still seems incapable of intelligently dealing with children's weight concerns.
In New York, for example, health officials want to fight obesity by cutting back on free breakfast programs for poor children -- even though morning meals are associated with healthy weight.
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.