Background: Bariatric surgery is regarded as the most effective treatment of morbid obesity in adults. Referral patterns for bariatric surgery in adults differ among general practitioners (GPs), partially due to restricted knowledge of the available treatment options. Reluctance in referral might be present even stronger in the treatment of morbidly obese children.
Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate the current practice of GPs regarding treatment of paediatric morbid obesity and their attitudes towards the emergent phenomenon of paediatric weight loss surgery.
Methods: All GPs enlisted in the local registries of two medical centres were invited for a 15-question anonymous online survey.
Results: Among 534 invited GPs, 184 (34.5%) completed the survey. Only 102 (55.4%) reported providing or referring morbidly obese children for combined lifestyle interventions. A majority (n = 175, 95.1%) estimated that conservative treatment is effective in a maximum of 50% of children. Although 123 (66.8%) expect that bariatric surgery may be effective in therapy-resistant morbid obesity, only 76 (41.3%) would consider referral for surgery. Important reasons for reluctance were uncertainty about long-term efficacy and safety. The opinion that surgery is only treatment of symptoms and therefore not appropriate was significantly more prevalent amongst GPs who would not refer (58.3% vs. 27.6%, p < 0.001).
Conclusion: There is a potential for undertreatment of morbidly obese adolescents, due to suboptimal knowledge regarding guidelines and bariatric surgery, as well as negative attitudes towards surgery. This should be addressed by improving communication between surgeons and GPs and providing educational resources on bariatric surgery.