NYU Medical Center Opens New York Area's First Comprehensive Adolescent Obesity Treatment Program

Contact: Pam McDonnell

Program is the first in the U.S. to link a nationally renowned child mental health center and a leading surgical weight loss program

NEW YORK, NY, July 12, 2004 - To help combat the significant problem of childhood obesity, NYU Medical Center is opening the NYU Pediatric Weight Loss Program, the first comprehensive adolescent obesity treatment program in the New York area. Starting in July 2004, the program will begin treating adolescents who are morbidly obese.

One of the components will be ShapeDown®, a successful program developed at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. The program will begin by enrolling severely overweight adolescents in a 12-week family-based treatment program that involves nutritional, medical and psychological guidance for the patients and their families. Pediatric obesity research has shown that family-based treatment programs, such as ShapeDown®, are effective even after a 10-year follow up period.

If the patient improves, treatment will continue using the same set of procedures. Patients who do not lose weight with this intensive and proven program, and who are found to be good candidates for surgery, will be further evaluated to determine if an innovative surgical weight loss procedure called laparoscopic adjustable gastric band, gastric band for short, is an option for them. This procedure is available from the NYU Program for Surgical Weight Loss.

In either case, long-term comprehensive follow-up care will be tailored to the individual patient’s needs, and will include medical care follow-up by the Division of Bariatric Surgery, as well as psychological care, ongoing support, and nutritional guidance for patients and their families, provided by the NYU Child Study Center.

"We recognize that obesity is caused by many different factors, including genetic predisposition, lifestyle choices, and lack of physical activity," says Harold Koplewicz, M.D., Director of the NYU Child Study Center. "Therefore we are working as a team with the NYU Program for Surgical Weight Loss to help this group of adolescents deal with this critical health problem."

The NYU Pediatric Weight Loss Program will only offer the gastric band procedure for surgical weight loss in adolescents, instead of gastric bypass surgery. Although gastric bypass is better known, the gastric band procedure is reversible, adjustable, safer, and has a shorter recovery period. It also does not have any of the risks of nutritional deficits associated with gastric bypass surgery.

George Fielding, M.D., who has performed 2300 gastric band procedures since 1996, and has done more adolescent bariatric surgeries than any other surgeon worldwide, has been recruited to head the NYU Adolescent Bariatric Surgery Program. Dr. Fielding comes from Wesley Hospital in Brisbane, Australia, and is an expert in laparoscopic surgery, especially for bariatric procedures. In fact, Dr. Fielding developed the technique that is presently used to implant the gastric band.

As someone who has had weight problems since childhood, Dr. Fielding can offer unique understanding and compassion for patients. He underwent the gastric band procedure himself in 1999; as a result, he has lost a significant amount of weight and has maintained his weight since.

"We recognize that not every child needs surgery to accomplish weight loss," says Dr. Fielding. "But for those who do, they will have the advantage of being at NYU, where there is already a very successful bariatric program, and some of the most experienced bariatric surgeons in the world."

In gastric band surgery, a silicon ring is placed around the upper portion of the stomach, causing appetite suppression and fullness with only one-fifth the amount of food previously consumed.

Obesity is a condition that is increasingly affecting youth worldwide. In the United States 10 to 15 percent of adolescents are obese. Because the majority of these teenagers become obese adults, with the associated increased danger of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the condition is a serious health risk. Recent studies have shown that obesity is the leading cause of sharply increasing disability rates among younger Americans.

NYU Medical Center is a national leader in bariatric procedures. Christine Ren, M.D., established the NYU Program for Surgical Weight Loss in 2000, and is considered the leading surgeon in the U.S. for the gastric band procedure. She has performed over 700 of these minimally invasive surgeries, more than any other surgeon in the U.S.

Dr. Ren, recognizing the severe problem of childhood obesity in this country and the potential complications of gastric bypass, particularly for this age group, was instrumental in the creation of the new NYU adolescent program. "This partnership with the NYU Child Study Center allows us to strengthen our dedication to long-term follow-up and comprehensive care," says Dr. Ren. "Surgery is a last resort, but if it is required, we are pleased to be able to provide the most experienced surgeons to our adolescent bariatric patients."