Move for trial of gastric balloon for obese children

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SHEFFIELD could trial a gastric balloon treatment to help severely obese children lose weight.

So far the treatment is only thought to have been used in helping adults but now experts at Sheffield Children’s Hospital are considering whether it could be an effective way to discourage over-eating by youngsters as an alternative to gastric band surgery.

The experiment would see ten teenagers, under general anaesthetic, having a balloon inserted down their throat into the stomach where it is then inflated with salt water. The balloon partly fills the stomach so the person feels fuller more quickly and doesn’t eat as much food as before.

The balloon would be taken out after six months and patients are seen again six, 12 and finally 18 months, to see if they have managed to keep the weight off.

Although the weight-loss procedure has been found to be effective in adults, very few studies have been done in children.

Dr Neil Wright, a consultant paediatrician and obesity specialist at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The gastric balloon is a treatment normally for adults and which, as far as we know, has never been trialled with teenagers in the UK.

“We see it as a possible alternative to gastric surgery for young people with severe weight problems. It is intended as an option for young people where other treatments have not been successful.”

The trial is currently in the planning stage as it will need to be approved by the hospital’s ethics committee before it can go ahead.

If approval is given, the team will recruit youngsters aged 13 and upwards who are medically classified as ‘morbidly obese’.

They will be identified via their GP, hospital consultants and weight management programmes or parents will be able to ask for their child be referred directly for a hospital assessment.

The average weight for a 13-to-16-year old is 7-10 stone (45-60 kg). It is expected that young people in this study would weigh between 14 and 20 stone or more.

A team from Sheffield Hallam University and dieticians would teach the teenagers about healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes as well as organising supervised exercise sessions, checking at the same time for the risk of other serious conditions linked to weight gain, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, bone strength and depression.

Dr Wright said: “This is not a quick fix as the lifestyle advice and support is very important in helping young people to lose weight and giving them the information they need in the future to manage a healthy lifestyle.”