Polysarcia adiposa: morbid obesity

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2007 Sep;28(3):249-54. doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e31803266ee.


From October 1988 to March 2005, there were at least 92 autopsy cases where morbid obesity was present and/or where it was attributed to the cause of death in the coronial district of Auckland, New Zealand, a city with a population of over 1 million people. Obesity has been researched internationally, and much is known about associated comorbidities such as atherosclerotic disease, hypertension, and diabetes, to name a few. However, in the morbidly obese (body mass index>or=40 kg/m2), only 14 of 92 cases were found to have ischemic heart disease due to coronary atherosclerosis as the principal cause of death, and slightly over half (48/92) have some degree (mild, moderate, severe) of coronary atheroma. There is a strong positive correlation between heart weight and body weight. Only 8 livers were normal, all others showing some form of steatosis, venous congestion, and fibrosis/cirrhosis. The mean weights of the heart, lungs, and liver were above the normal reference range in almost all cases. In conclusion, the study did not follow the widely published finding of the positive correlation between morbid obesity and ischemic heart disease in terms of mortality, but the study was consistent with other studies on the organ manifestations of morbid obesity, particularly for the heart, lungs, and liver.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / mortality
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / pathology
  • Cause of Death
  • Coronary Artery Disease / mortality
  • Coronary Artery Disease / pathology
  • Edema / pathology
  • Embolism, Fat / mortality
  • Embolism, Fat / pathology
  • Female
  • Forensic Pathology
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Diseases / pathology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Ischemia / mortality
  • Myocardial Ischemia / pathology
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Obesity, Morbid / mortality*
  • Organ Size
  • Pulmonary Embolism / mortality
  • Pulmonary Embolism / pathology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / mortality
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / pathology