Severe childhood obesity has become a major health problem, and effective, evidence-based interventions are needed. The relative effectiveness of inpatient compared with ambulatory treatment remains unknown.
To determine whether an inpatient treatment program is more effective than an ambulatory treatment program at achieving a sustained weight loss in children and adolescents with severe obesity.
Design, Setting, and Participants
We conducted a randomized clinical trial with a 2-year follow-up at a tertiary referral center for pediatric obesity in the Netherlands. We recruited 90 children and adolescents aged 8 to 18 years with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] z score, ≥3.0 or >2.3 with obesity-related health problems).
Patients were randomly assigned to an inpatient (6 months of hospitalization on working days) or an ambulatory (12 days of hospital visits at increasing intervals during a 6-month period) treatment program. Both treatment programs involved an intensive, family-based, lifestyle intervention, including exercise, nutritional education, and behavior modification for the patients and their caregiver(s).
Main Outcomes and Measures
Change in BMI z score. Secondary outcomes included fasting insulin, fasting plasma glucose, 2-hour plasma glucose, and lipid levels, insulin sensitivity, liver function test results, waist circumference, blood pressure, body composition, and aerobic fitness (peak oxygen consumption, V̇o2). Outcomes were analyzed by intention to treat.
Immediately after treatment, reductions in the BMI z score were significantly larger for the inpatient than the ambulatory groups (mean [SE] difference, −0.26 [0.12; 95% CI, −0.59 to −0.01]; P = .04). Change from baseline for the BMI z score in the inpatient group was −18.0% (P = .001) immediately after treatment, −8.5% (P = .008) at 18 months, and −6.3% (P = .38) at 30 months; in the ambulatory group, changes from baseline were −10.5% (P = .001), −6.2% (P = .39), and −1.5% (P > .99), respectively. The favorable outcomes of the inpatient group could not be sustained at 12 and 24 months after treatment. In addition, significant differences in favor of the inpatient group immediately after treatment were found for levels of fasting insulin (−6.37 IU/L; P = .02), total cholesterol (−19.51 mg/dL; P = .01), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (−13.48 mg/dL; P = .03), and triglycerides (−25.39 mg/dL; P = .01), and insulin sensitivity (−1.37; P = .02), fat mass (−3.31%; P = .03), and peak V̇o2 (378.2 mL/min; P = .01).
Conclusions and Relevance
In severely obese children and adolescents, inpatient treatment was superior to ambulatory treatment immediately after treatment, but effects were not sustained at long-term follow-up. These findings stress the need to further study maintenance strategies for sustainable weight loss.
trialregister.nl Identifier: NTR1172