Jascey Vermillion struggled most of her life to lose weight through diet and exercise alone. So, like a growing number of teenagers, she had bariatric surgery, and in just 90 days lost more than 70 pounds.
"It's made my life so much better," said Vermillion. "I'm happier and I'm getting to know more people, and it's just changed everything."
But Jascey's life may have changed even more than she realizes. Before undergoing weight loss surgery, every teenager is put through rigorous testing. But in a recent study, researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital took it a step further, doing sophisticated tests on the teenagers' hearts as well.
"What we found was that the cardiac structure and function in these extremely obese adolescents scheduled for bariatric surgery, was much more impaired than one might have thought," said Dr. John Bauer, with Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Working with fellow colleagues at the Ohio State University, doctors perform cardiac MRI's on teen patients - and while following ten of them for a recent study, they found many had hearts that were larger and much less efficient than normal. But after weight loss surgery, that changed.
"Many of the abnormalities that we documented during the initial baseline study, actually showed significant improvement after the weight loss had been obtained," said Dr. Marc Michalsky, with Nationwide Children's Hospital.
In fact, the study found that enlarged hearts got smaller, blood flow improved in all the patients, and in 60 percent it completely normalized. Because they are young and rarely show cardiac risk factors, few patients like Jascey ever get high-tech heart testing before surgery. But this study may help change that.
"The bad news is that they probably are at more risk than most people had considered, the good news is, that bariatric surgery definitely has a capacity to reverse some of this, at least," said Bauer.
For more information, go to www.nationwidechildrens.org and visit "news room."