Obesity may complicate surgery in children

A new study suggests that nearly one-third of children undergoing surgery are overweight or obese, placing them at increased risk of experiencing complications associated with the surgery.

“We hope our study and others to follow will help spotlight the obese child as being a high-risk surgical candidate and therefore deserves extra vigilance,” Dr. Olubukola O. Nafiu from University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor, told Reuters Health.

“Obviously, primary prevention of obesity will be the answer,” Nafiu said.

Nafiu and colleagues looked at all 6,017 children who had surgery at the U-M Hospital between 2000 and 2004 and found that 31.5 percent were overweight or obese, with 10 percent classified as obese and 4.5 percent classified as morbidly obese.

Based on age- and gender-specific definitions, 14.4 percent of children were overweight and 17.2 percent were obese, the results, published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, indicate.

“We were quite surprised to find that many obese children and those who were morbidly obese by adult standards were classified as ASA I,” indicating a healthy patient with no increased surgical risk, Nafiu said.

On the contrary, it’s been shown that certain surgical complications are more common in obese individuals compared to normal-weight individuals, Nafiu said.

For instance, obese children may have more breathing difficulties; a higher risk of post-surgery upper airway obstruction; and may require more anti-nausea medication. Obese adults are also known to be at increased risk for surgical complications.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Medical Association January 2007.

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