According to a news release from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, outcomes regarding musculoskeletal disease among severely obese adolescents who participated in the “Teen Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery” (Teen-LABS) study were published this week in JAMA Pediatrics. The release notes that Teen-LABS is a multi-center clinical study funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health. The study is designed to examine the safety and health effects of surgical weight loss procedures.

The study is being conducted at five clinical centers in the US, including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Thomas H. Inge, MD, PhD, is the study’s chair and is located at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

The release notes that Sharon Bout-Tabaku, MD, MSCE, assistant professor and Pediatric Rheumatologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, is the lead author for the article. The article places a key focus on the associations between severe obesity and chronic musculoskeletal pain and functional status in adolescents prior to undergoing bariatric surgery.

Investigators report in this most recent publication from the Teen-LABS research study, that while pediatric obesity is more common now and is linked to other diseases, very little is known about the consequences of the most severe forms of obesity on the musculoskeletal system.

The release states authors of the current study found that severely obese teens that carry excess weight, have specific musculoskeletal abnormalities including pain and experience functional difficulties performing routine tasks. Of the 242 participants in the Teen-LABS cohort, three-quarters reportedly had musculoskeletal pain, while approximately 50% had poor functional status. Pain in the lower back was the most commonly reported, followed by pain the lower extremities, including the ankles, feet, knees, and hips. The release adds that lower extremity pain was a risk factor that predicted functional impairment and low health-related quality of life scores.

The findings reflect the potential long-term functional consequences of severe obesity early in life, the release points out. Previous research conducted by the same group involved in the current study indicated that adults undergoing bariatric surgery had a 4- to 5-fold increased risk of walking limitation and troublesome swelling of the legs if they were severely obese during adolescence.

Bout-Tabaku explains in the release that “Musculoskeletal and specifically lower extremity pain in severely obese adolescents may be a risk factor and herald a pre-disease state of osteoarthritis, which may be reversible at early stages following bariatric surgery.”

For clinicians working with obese adolescents, she says, the key point is that “awareness of lower extremity pain and its impact on functional ability, including adherence to exercise and other physical activity recommendations, is extremely important and needs to be treated appropriately.”

Source: Nationwide Children’s Hospital