Overweight Patients At Greater Risk Of Infection After Surgery

July 11, 1996

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Surgery patients who are overweight are about six to nine times more likely to develop post-operative infections than patients who are not overweight, new research suggests.

In a study of patients who had elective surgery at Ohio State University over a three-month period, researchers found that 2.8 percent of the overweight and 4 percent of the severely overweight patients developed post-operative infections while in the hospital. Conversely, only 0.5 percent of the normal weight patients developed such infections. The overweight and severely overweight patients were not any more ill to begin with than the normal weight patients.

"There was a significant increase in the number of hospital-acquired infections in the obese populations," said Patricia Choban, an assistant professor of surgery at Ohio State and lead author of the study. "These results support the increasing body of evidence suggesting that obese patients may be at increase drisk for infectious complications around surgery, particularly wound complications."

Obesity is currently the most prevalent chronic disease in the United States, Choban said, with nearly 35 percent of the U.S. population affected.

Choban conducted this research with Rachel Heckler, graduate student; Jean C. Burge, a patient care resource manager in general surgery; and Louis Flancbaum, an associate professor of surgery, all from OhioState. The group's work was published in a recent issue of The American Surgeon.

For the study, Choban and her colleagues reviewed the anesthesia records of 849 patients who had general, urologic, gynecologic or thoracic surgery at Ohio State University Hospitals between October 1 and December 31, 1991. These records included the height, weight, age, gender and body mass index (BMI) of each patient, as well as the anesthesiologist's estimate of the severity of the patient's disease.

The researchers then reviewed hospital epidemiology records to determine how many of these patients acquired infections while they were hospital inpatients.

The results:

Ohio State University

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