Bariatric Surgery for Adolescents

Santiago Horgan, MD, briefly describes UC San Diego Health's commitment to providing weight-loss surgery options for adolescents who are obese.


Our multidisciplinary team works in close collaboration with the specialists at Rady Children’s Weight and Wellness program. We understand that being severely overweight can have a tremendous impact on an adolescent’s life — now and throughout adulthood. We are dedicated to addressing the medical, nutritional, emotional and social needs of adolescents who are candidates for weight-loss surgery. Together with their family, we collaborate in recommending the best medical option for each individual patient.

Typically, weight-loss surgery is only considered if the adolescent:

  • Has a BMI (body mass index) of 35 or greater with obesity-related health conditions, or a BMI of 40 or greater without significant obesity-related health conditions (learn more about adolescent BMI below)
  • Has been unable to reach a healthy weight through other diet and exercise programs

If your adolescent (ages 14 to 18) has tried seriously, but has been unable to lose weight, our team offers the following surgical weight-loss options:

Consideration for weight-loss surgery is done on an individual basis after the adolescent has undergone a complete evaluation by our team. The adolescent has to be willing to follow all recommendations and requirements of the weight-loss surgery program.

Body Mass Index (BMI) in Adolescents

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure used to determine whether a child is overweight or obese. It is calculated using a child's weight and height. BMI does not measure body fat directly, but it is a reasonable indicator of body fatness for most children and teens.

A child's weight status is determined using an age- and sex-specific percentile for BMI rather than the BMI categories used for adults because children's body composition varies as they age and varies between boys and girls.

Generally, weight-loss surgery is only considered if the adolescent:

  • Has a BMI (body mass index) of 35 or greater with obesity-related health conditions, or a BMI of 40 or greater without significant obesity-related health conditions
  • Has been unable to lose weight through other diet and exercise programs

What Parents Should Know about Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a serious health issue, associated with multiple health risks, including:

  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. 
  • Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
  • Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea and asthma
  • Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort
  • Fatty liver disease, gallstones and gastro-esophageal reflux, heartburn
  • Greater risk of social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem

Obese children are also more likely to become obese adults. If children are overweight, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.

Weight management programs at UC San Diego Health can reverse these life-altering health conditions and help your adolescent get started on the path to lifelong health.


Appointments & Referrals

BMI Clinic Location

La Jolla

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A Center of Excellence

We are a fully Accredited Bariatric Center in the American College of Surgeons Bariatric Surgery Center Network (ACS BSCN). Learn more.