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Surgery Risks Higher for Obese

Obese Patients Have a Higher Risk of Complications Following Surgery
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 14, 2007 -- Obese people have a much higher risk of potentially deadly complications following surgery, a new study shows.

Researchers found obese patients had a significantly higher risk of postoperative complications, such as heart attack, wound infection, nerve injury, and urinary tract infections.

In addition, the study showed morbidly obese patients (patients more than 100 pounds over their ideal weight) were nearly twice as likely to die as a result of complications following noncardiac surgery.

Researchers say the findings are especially troubling as obesity rates climb in the U.S. According to the CDC, more than 30% of the adult U.S. population is now considered obese.

"Our study provides further evidence of the dangers of obesity as it relates to surgery," says researcher Olumuyiwa A. Bamgbade, MD, a visiting instructor at the University of Michigan, in a news release.

Obesity Raises Surgery Risks

Researchers analyzed postoperative complications among 6,773 patients treated between 2001 and 2005 from the University of Michigan anesthesiology department database. Of the patients who experienced complications, about one-third were obese and nearly 15% were morbidly obese.

The results showed obese patients had much higher rates of postoperative complications than nonobese patients, such as:

  • Five times higher rate of heart attack 
  • Four times higher rate of peripheral nerve injury
  • 1.7 times higher rate of wound infection
  • 1.5 times higher rate of urinary tract infection

The overall death rate did not vary between obese and nonobese patients, but the death rate was nearly twice as high among morbidly obese patients compared with nonobese patients (2.2% vs. 1.2%).

Because of the increased risk of postoperative complications, researchers recommend that obese patients who have outpatient surgery stay in the hospital for monitoring for 23 hours.

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