Introduction: Several studies have shown a correlation between body mass index (BMI) and both the development of critical illness and adverse outcomes in critically ill patients. The goal of our study was to examine this relationship prospectively with particular attention to the influence of concomitant diabetes mellitus (DM).
Methods: We analyzed data from 15,408 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study for this analysis. BMI and the presence of DM were defined at baseline. We defined 'acute organ failure' as those subjects who met a standard definition with diagnostic codes abstracted from hospitalization records. Outcomes assessed included the following: risk of the development of acute organ failure within three years of the baseline examination; in-hospital death while ill with acute organ failure; and death at three years among all subjects and among those with acute organ failure.
Results: At baseline, participants with a BMI of at least 30 were more likely than those in lower BMI categories to have DM (22.4% versus 7.9%, p < 0.01). Overall, BMI was not a significant predictor of developing acute organ failure. The risk for developing acute organ failure was increased among subjects with DM in comparison with those without DM (2.4% versus 0.7%, p < 0.01). Among subjects with organ failure, both in-hospital mortality (46.5% versus 12.2%, p < 0.01) and 3-year mortality (51.2% versus 21.1%, p < 0.01) was higher in subjects with DM.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that obesity by itself is not a significant predictor of either acute organ failure or death during or after acute organ failure in this cohort. However, the presence of DM, which is related to obesity, is a strong predictor of both acute organ failure and death after acute organ failure.