Barriers to metabolic bariatric surgery in adolescents: results of a qualitative study



      It is estimated that 4.5 million youth in the United States have severe obesity (SO). Metabolic and bariatric surgery (MBS) is the most effective and longitudinally durable treatment for adolescents with SO, but only an estimated 1600 adolescents undergo the procedure annually.


      To understand patients’ perceptions and experiences with the barriers to MBS as an adolescent.


      This research was conducted at Children’s Hospital Colorado, an urban academic medical center, and the University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine and Sanford Research, a rural medical center.


      We conducted 14 qualitative interviews with individuals who received MBS between the ages of 19 and 25 years in the last 5 years regarding the barriers to MBS they experienced as an adolescent. A formal qualitative analysis was conducted using the constant comparative techniques of grounded theory generally guided by Anderson’s behavioral model of health service use.


      We identified 3 principal groups of barriers related to (1) a lack of information that MBS was an option and the absence of discussions about MBS with medical providers while an adolescent, (2) a lack of access to MBS primarily related to insurance coverage, costs, and family-related issues, and (3) a general stigma around MBS as a treatment for obesity.


      This study suggests that the primary barriers to MBS for adolescents with SO are related to a general lack of information about MBS, social stigma, and access issues related to costs that decrease or limit access.

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