Pulmonary physiologic changes of morbid obesity

Am J Med Sci. 1999 Nov;318(5):293-7. doi: 10.1097/00000441-199911000-00002.


Objective: Our objective was to study the effects of extreme obesity on pulmonary function tests and the effects of smoking on these variables in a population group larger than has previously been reported.

Design: Retrospective data analysis.

Setting: Academic medical center.

Patients: Forty-three patients with extreme obesity [ratio of weight in kilograms to height in centimeters greater than 0.9 (W/H)] who underwent pulmonary function testing at Cedars-Sinai on an out-patient or in-patient basis during the period of 1979 to 1 997.

Measurements and results: Patients underwent standard pulmonary function testing. The patients were divided into 2 groups based on the W/H ratio: group A (0.9-0.99) and group B (greater than 1.0). Chart review was performed to identify pertinent history/co-morbidities. The independent effects of smoking between each group's patients were assessed. Forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), expiratory reserve volume (ERV), functional residual capacity (FRC), maximum voluntary ventilation (MVV), and forced expiratory flow during midexpiratory phase (FEF25-75%,) were significantly reduced in both groups. Single-breath diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO) and the volume of gas into which the single-breath of carbon monoxide and helium was diluted were not elevated. Smoking did not account for the results in group A but did seem to partially explain the decrease in FVC, FEV1, and FEF25-75% in group B.

Conclusions: Extreme obesity is associated with a reduction in ERV, FVC, FEV1, FRC, FEF25-75%, and MVV. However, contrary to prior reports, D(LCO) is not elevated. These effects are only partially explained by smoking.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity, Morbid / physiopathology*
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange
  • Respiratory Function Tests*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Spirometry