Obesity represents one of the most important public health issues according to the World
Health Organization and it has reached epidemic proportions globally. The prevalence of
childhood obesity has rapidly increased over the past decade and is associated with multiple
co-morbid disease states . It is estimated that approximately 15.5% of children and
adolescents are obese with a body mass index of ≥95th percentile for age . This not only
poses health concerns for the patient, but also places increased demands on our healthcare
system that is already overwhelmed by burgeoning costs. Moreover, obese children and
adolescents who maintain excessive weight as adults are predisposed to cardiovascular disease
and premature death.
In carefully selected patients who have failed to lose weight by diet and exercise, bariatric
surgery provides an option to obtaining a healthy weight.
It is increasingly becoming an attractive option, with the number of adolescents undergoing
bariatric surgery in the United States tripling between 2000 and 2003.
Obese patients are often afflicted with multi-organ dysfunction and obstructive sleep apnea,
which presents unique challenges to the anesthesiologist managing their perioperative care .
Bariatric surgery in obese adolescents may be associated with significant postoperative pain.
Potent intravenous opioids such as fentanyl and morphine are at the mainstay of perioperative
pain management. Unfortunately, respiratory depression and airway obstruction can often occur
following administration of opioids in obese patients . This makes providing a safe analgesic
regimen difficult during the perioperative setting. As opioids can be associated with
respiratory depression and upper airway obstruction, surgeons and anesthesiologists alike
must reconcile the adequacy of pain control with the risk of respiratory complications after
surgery in obese adolescents.