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Read Original Story

Anti-obesity surgery for youths triples

Rating

3 Star

Anti-obesity surgery for youths triples

Our Review Summary

This story reported on a recently published scientific article documenting an increase in the number of children having weight loss surgery.  The story mentioned that rates of surgical complications were lower in children than in adults, and that their hospital stays were shorter. But it gave no estimates of weight loss that might be obtained, no estimates for the incidence of side-effects or adverse outcomes that might be associated with the surgery, or what the long term effects of the procedure might be.

This story represents another example of a newspaper shortening an original Associated Press story, and, in the process, leaving out some important information.  We've addressed this practice before and will continue to do so. We give an unsatisfactory score to the editing done by the Baltimore Sun, which shortened the original AP story.  The Sun story did not mention any harms associated with weight loss surgery in children.  The full length AP piece, from which the story was taken, did mention that obesity surgery during teen years could be associated with psychological risks. In addition it mentioned that the question of how teens fared after leaving the hospital was left unanswered.  However, neither the full AP story nor the shortened Sun story explicitly mentioned any medical complications or long-term concerns.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story provided an estimate of hospital charges associated with weight loss surgery in children.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story did not quantify the benefits associated with the treatment.  There was no estimate of average weight loss observed, though there was discussion of one young man who lost 200 pounds in the 18 months following surgery.  The longer AP version of this story mentioned that "the benefits outweight the risks for most patients," but still without quantifying those benefits or risks.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

We give an unsatisfactory score to the editing done by the Baltimore Sun, which shortened the original AP story.  The Sun story did not mention any harms associated with weight loss surgery in children.  The full length AP piece, from which the story was taken, did mention that obesity surgery during teen years could be associated with psychological risks. In addition it mentioned that the question of how teens fared after leaving the hospital was left unanswered.  However, neither the full AP story nor the shortened Sun story explicitly mentioned any medical complications or long-term concerns.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

The story mentioned that the information it reported on came from a recently published article analyzying a database of hospital patients.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story did not engage in overt disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The sources of information for this story appear to be the scientific article, one of its authors, and one patient.  The story would have been improved by having someone comment on the significance of the results reported on.  This is a controversial issue and there are other experts who could have raised more concerns about the long-term health consequences.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Applicable

This was a story about the change in rate of weight loss surgery in children.  Although it did not contain mention of other treatment options for weight loss, this was really not its focus.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The entire basis for the story was the growing number of children having obesity surgery, but the story could have given some indication about the number of hospitals that performed these procedures in children.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The story failed to mention that this procedure in adolescents is still considered very much "experimental" by most experts when applied to this population. The story underemphasized the lack of long-term follow-up data on these kids which leaves the reader with the impression that it is pretty routine when it is not. The uncertainties surrounding the "newness" of the procedure in adolescents is very important. (Again, the Baltimore Sun story cut out the only reference to this issue.) 

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

Does not appear to rely solely or largely on a press release.

Total Score: 5 of 9 Satisfactory

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