Bariatric (weight loss) surgery

The leading risk factor for becoming an obese adult is history of obesity as a child: Approximately 60 percent of obese adolescents grow into obese adults. Often, these adolescents fail to improve their health in spite of adhering to a strict diet and exercise regimen and may benefit from a weight loss surgery program instead.

Bariatric surgery at Children's Wisconsin is predominantly accomplished by laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, which decreases the size of the stomach. Eligible patients will have:

  • Reached complete physical maturity (usually around age 13 in girls and age 15 in boys)
  • Failed to lose weight after being enrolled in a weight loss program for three to six months
  • BMI greater than 35 with obesity-related health problems or BMI greater than 40 without any obesity-related health problems
  • Shown they’re capable of adhering to long-term life changes after surgery

Patients will be reviewed by a multidisciplinary panel of pediatric specialists, including bariatric surgeons, gastroenterologists, dietitians and psychologists, as well as pediatric subspecialists such as pulmonologists and cardiologists as necessary. Patients will be evaluated for surgery when the risk of their health condition exceeds the risk of surgery. Before surgery is considered, patients need to demonstrate compliance with a weight-loss regimen for three to six months and address psychological needs leading to binge-eating, depression and anxiety.


The majority of health conditions associated with obesity resolve in the first year after surgery. The weight loss procedure is well-tolerated and the weight loss results are durable and long-lasting. Six-year follow-up of patients receiving laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy operations shows a durable loss of 50 percent of excess weight.

Like any bariatric surgery, laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy affords a period of rapid weight loss, during which patients can regain a healthier lifestyle and secure lifelong healthy habits. Mean weight loss with LSG is 14 units on the BMI scale.

No bariatric surgery can accomplish longstanding weight loss without a change in lifestyle and habits. Our team will work to provide guidance to patients and their families about establishing these habits pre- and postoperatively. Many medical conditions improve as a result of weight loss surgery, including depression, diabetes and fatty liver disease.


Teens have a faster recovery rate, and there are fewer complications. The greatest risks are due to stomach staple line leaking, which occurs in one percent of cases and requires reoperation. We will take precautions to avoid venous blood clots, another potential risk. Long-term commitment is required on the part of your family prior to enrolling in this program. At Children’s Wisconsin, weight loss surgery is a team approach, and patients and their families are an important part of the team.

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