Fit for Healthy Weight

Weight Loss Surgery

At the UCLA Fit for Health Weight Program, we do not have strict age restrictions or criteria for weight loss surgeries. Each patient is treated individually and offered both medical and surgical options depending on their multidisciplinary evaluation. Surgical options include:

  • Sleeve gastrectomy - this procedure avoids malabsorption and might be considered in younger patients.
  • Gastric bypass - current guidelines established for adolescents advise performing the surgery on patients who have gone through puberty and are physically mature. In general, this age is 13 in girls and 15 in boys.

What do I need to do to become a candidate for weight-loss surgery?

  1. Complete a detailed registration form for the UCLA Fit for Healthy Weight Clinic.
  2. Be evaluated by our multidisciplinary team involving a surgeon, pediatrician, dietitian, and psychologist.
  3. Be enrolled in a medically supervised intervention program for a minimum of six months.
  4. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the procedure and its risks.
  5. Be committed to the post-operative diet and life-long follow-up.
  6. Be committed to avoid pregnancy for at least one year after the operation.
  7. Provide informed consent.

Will my insurance company cover weight-loss surgery?

If your child qualifies for weight-loss surgery, we will do everything possible to help you obtain insurance approval. The American Society of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery (ASBMS), recently reviewed results of the sleeve gastrectomy and reported that the three year results are comparable to other weight-loss surgeries and better than the gastric band with a lower complication rate. Nonetheless, many insurance companies will demand long-term results prior to funding the sleeve gastrectomy. We feel that children with compromised health cannot afford to wait. Even if we are able to achieve short-term results, there is hope of making lifestyle changes during the important "formative" years of adolescence that can last a lifetime. Furthermore, the sleeve gastrectomy procedure doesn't "burn any bridges". Other additional malabsorptive operations can be had to help reduce weight and improve overall health in the future.

What to expect with weight-loss surgery

After surgery, most patients will be in the hospital for two days. Patients are able to drink clear liquids the day after surgery. Full liquids and protein shakes are started two days after surgery. Well-chewed solid food can be started a few weeks after surgery. Surgery is only an aid, and strict diet-adherence must be maintained. Patients who have long-term success will restrict portions to 1/3 normal serving size for their lifetime. We also recommend an anti-ulcer medication (proton pump inhibitor) for a minimum of three months after the operation to help with symptoms. Vitamins supplements will also be given if there are preoperative deficiencies. Birth control may also be prescribed to avoid pregnancy for at least one to two years after the operation.

The majority of weight loss occurs during the first six months after surgery. The weight loss begins to plateau around one to two years after the surgery. There may be a small weight increase after that time. The average expected excess body weight loss is 60% after one to two years.

For example:
Preoperative body weight: 250 lbs
Ideal body weight: 125 lb
Excess body weight: 125 lbs
60% of excess body weight: 75 lbs
Average expected postoperative weight after two Years: 175 lbs

Watch this UCLA Health video explaining weight-loss surgery.