Weight Loss Surgery for a Broken Hunger Mechanism

Medically induced obesity made headlines last month as a 200-pound, 12-year-old girl from Texas underwent weight loss surgery. Her hunger mechanism, the complex system of neurotransmitters and chemicals that told her brain she was full, had been damaged during brain surgery.

Medically induced obesity can be caused by medications, or as in the case of this girl, a health condition. Steroids, antipsychotics and antidepressants are the major reason for drug-related weight gain. While an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), conditions in the hypothalamus, (a portion of the brain above the brain stem), or issues with the pituitary gland (at the base of the brain), are the common reasons for health-related obesity.

Weight loss surgery for medically induced obesity may not be as successful as surgery performed for other obesity reasons according to Dr. Marc Bessler of the Center for Metabolic and Weight Loss Surgery. If that hunger mechanism is broken, the size of the stomach won’t make a difference. The patient may still have a difficult time feeling full.

Yet, as in this girl’s situation, there is case to be made for a sleeve gastrectomy. The outcomes may not be as successful, but it provides some relief from related health conditions and adds a quality to life that wouldn’t exist otherwise.

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