A new study suggests that teen girls who received gastric bypass surgery to lose weight may be at an increased risk of having a child that suffers from birth defects.
The study was presented at a national conference for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), on Sunday. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, say that deficiencies in vitamins and nutrients increase the risk of gastric bypass birth defects, especially among teen girls, who are more likely to be lax in following the strict diet the surgery requires. The study is not yet available online.
Gastric bypass surgery alters the size and shape of the stomach and intestines in order to address issues of extreme obesity and to promote rapid weight loss. The procedure has gained in popularity in recent years, but the changes to the body require recipients to also permanently alter the way they eat to ensure they receive the proper balance of nutrients.
The researchers said they looked at seven cases involving teens who received the procedure who later had children with neural tube defects, like spina bifida, which can be caused by a lack of folic acid vitamins, also known as folates. Some other pediatricians question the results of the study, however, pointing to the low number of participants and noting how much food in the U.S. has been fortified with folates.
The study is just the latest incident that raises questions about the safety of gastric bypass surgery. Previous studies suggest that gastric bypass surgery side effects can include permanent neurological damage that could cause hallucinations, weakness or even paralysis. That study, published in 2007 in the medical journal, Neurology, also pointed to nutrient deficiencies as the likely cause of the damage.
There have been a number of gastric bypass lawsuits throughout the years filed by people who died or suffered severe complications from the surgery. A January 2005 study found that nearly one out of every 50 people die within a month of having the surgery, and lawsuits have suggested that inexperienced surgeons and a lack of sufficient screening as to who should receive the surgery have been contributing factors.