ASA Helps Parents Reduce Chances of Surgical Complications in Obese Kids

27 Dec

Childhood obesity is a major problem that is reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S.
and much of the developed world. There are twice as many children who are obese than
20 years ago, and three times the number of adolescents who are obese.

This, of course, has major health ramifications, but not just in the areas you might be
thinking of, such as diabetes and heart disease. If a child has to be given anesthesia for a
medical procedure, they face bigger risks than their thinner healthier counterparts.

That is why The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is raising awareness
by educating parents about the potential complications their children may face when
undergoing anesthesia.

Since children’s airways are still in the midst of development, anesthesia can be more
complicated with kids than with adults. This means their airways are more prone to
collapse during the administration of anesthesia. The risk increases when a child is obese.

“Obese children have extra tissue surrounding their airway, chest, and abdomen that can
impair breathing while under anesthesia, and limit the amount of oxygen they receive
during surgery. This can lead to a range of complications including impairment of lung
function and in severe circumstances even brain damage,” said Mark Singleton, M.D.,
ASA member and chair of the committee on pediatric anesthesia.

Here are some tips that the ASA is giving parents to optimize their children’s surgical
outcomes, not to mention their overall health:

– The first and most logical choice is to help your child lose weight before their surgery.
Even just a few pounds of weight loss can have a positive impact on the outcome of your
child’s medical procedure. You can do this by encouraging simple healthy eating habits
at home and when they are in school or elsewhere.

– Make sure that you child’s anesthesiologist has experience with obese patients,
particularly children. Speak with them about the specific risks involved.

– When you embark on helping your child get to a healthy weight, set reasonable goals.
Make an appointment with your pediatrician to set up a safe weight-loss program for
your child. Also discuss the weight loss program with your child’s anesthesiologist and
surgeon to make sure it won’t interfere with their future medical procedure.

– Remember when kids played outside rather than sitting at home playing video games
day and night? Get your back into a daily exercise that all kids should enjoy. Sign them
up for team sports or after-school physical activities. And even if that isn’t something
they are interested in, just get them outside with friends to run around.

Dr. Singleton goes on to say the following:

“As the physicians responsible for protecting the vital health of patients when they are
at their most vulnerable – before, during and after surgery – we’re urging parents and
youths alike to educate themselves about the potential risks associated with pediatric
obesity and to fight this growing trend by making changes that enable them to lose
weight while maintaining an active lifestyle.”