Surgury Riskier for Thin People

On November 21, 2011 the Archives of Surgery, a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal, released a study online first entitled ‘The Relationship Between Body Mass Index and 30-Day Mortality Risk’, by Principal Surgical Procedure.

The study was carried out by a group of researchers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. They came to the conclusion that the risk of death was higher among patients who had a body mass index of less the 23.1%,

The study looked at data from over 189,000 cases of vascular and general surgery in the database of the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program. The surgeries tool place at 183 different hospitals between 2005 and 2006. The patients were divided into groups by body max index which was figured by dividing the weight of the patients by their height squared and multiplied by 703.

In the 30 days after surgery, 3,245 of the patients died which 1.7%.  The researchers then looked at the significance of the body mass index in comparisons to the death.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a BMI under 185 is underweight, 18.5 to 24.9 is normal, 25 to 29.9 is overweight and 30.0 and above is obese.  In the study, the patients at highest risk of dying were those in the 23.1 and below body mass index which is within the normal range. Their risk was accessed at 40% greater than those who were overweight and higher even than those who were obese. The type of surgery and the possible pre-surgery illness was figured into the percentages.

In a phone interview, one of the researchers from the University of Virginia, George J. Stukenborg, PhD, MA, stated that there have been prior research in this area and the results have been inconclusive. In the current study it is quite definitive that having a normal or low body mass index poses a higher risk of death in the first thirty days after surgery. The reason for the results are not clear and whether these patients have recently lost weight which may be indicative of an underlying illness or condition has not been tracked. There has been much speculation about the connection between bad surgical results and obesity and this seems to fly in the face of those thoughts.

The conclusion reached by the research team is that surgeons need to consider the body mass index when it comes to patient care after surgery and when they are determining who is a good candidate for surgery.