Alexis Shapiro, a 12-year-old Texas girl who is starving despite being morbidly obese, has undergone the first of what will likely be several medical procedures that doctors say may help her lose weight.
Surgeons at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio performed a sleeve gastrectomy on the girl Friday. The weight-loss procedure involves the surgical removal of a portion of the stomach.
Alexis, who weighed about 203 pounds, has hypothalamic obesity -- a condition she developed two years ago after her hypothalamus was damaged during surgery to remove a rare brain tumor. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that helps regulate weight, appetite and moods.
According to an earlier NBC News report, Alexis -- who follows a strict diet and exercise regimen -- had gained about 140 pounds since that surgery. Without intervention, she would've likely continued to gain about 2 pounds per week.
"It's continued to get harder and harder," Alexis' mom told Fox News last year. "Every day there's something new that she can't do. She's hurting. She's uncomfortable. It's just a struggle."
At the time, doctors recommended that Alexis undergo a vagotomy (the removal of part of the vagus nerve) and gastric bypass surgery to help her lose weight and control her appetite. The latter is often considered too dangerous for most children.
After some back and forth, the family's insurance provider agreed to cover Alexis' operation earlier this year.
On Friday, after months of anticipation, Alexis was wheeled into the operating theater, where doctors were preparing to perform the vagotomy and gastric bypass surgery. However, surgeons reportedly had to change their plans mid-procedure due to complications.
According to a series of live tweets by hospital officials, Alexis' liver was larger and fattier than doctors expected -- a factor that made the planned procedures unsafe. Doctors thus decided to move forward with a "staged approach" and performed a sleeve gastrectomy, which officials said is "still expected to help [Alexis] lose weight."
At around 11 a.m., the hospital tweeted the procedure was complete:
Alexis' surgery is complete. She will be moved to pediatric ICU as planned for recovery and close metabolic monitoring #HyObesity
— Cincinnati Childrens (@CincyChildrens) March 21, 2014
The gastric bypass surgery and vagotomy will be scheduled later, officials added.
In a post on the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center's blog earlier this week, the girl's mom said she hopes the surgery will significantly improve the quality of her child's life.
"I hope this...will be the beginning of the end of all of her pain and insecurities. I hope she won’t have to endure another day feeling like she is starving," she wrote. "Her sister and brother look forward to her being able to play with them again."
For more on this story, watch this 2013 Today.com interview: