Effect of obesity on intensive care morbidity and mortality: a meta-analysis

Crit Care Med. 2008 Jan;36(1):151-8. doi: 10.1097/01.CCM.0000297885.60037.6E.


Objective: To evaluate the effect of obesity on intensive care unit mortality, duration of mechanical ventilation, and intensive care unit length of stay among critically ill medical and surgical patients.

Design: Meta-analysis of studies comparing outcomes in obese (body mass index of > or = 30 kg/m2) and nonobese (body mass index of < 30 kg/m2) critically ill patients in intensive care settings.

Data source: MEDLINE, BIOSIS Previews, PubMed, Cochrane library, citation review of relevant primary and review articles, and contact with expert informants.

Setting: Not applicable.

Patients: A total of 62,045 critically ill subjects.

Interventions: Descriptive and outcome data regarding intensive care unit mortality and morbidity were extracted by two independent reviewers, according to predetermined criteria. Data were analyzed using a random-effects model.

Measurements and main results: Fourteen studies met inclusion criteria, with 15,347 obese patients representing 25% of the pooled study population. Data analysis revealed that obesity was not associated with an increased risk of intensive care unit mortality (relative risk, 1.00; 95% confidence interval, 0.86-1.16; p = .97). However, duration of mechanical ventilation and intensive care unit length of stay were significantly longer in the obese group by 1.48 days (95% confidence interval, 0.07-2.89; p = .04) and 1.08 days (95% confidence interval, 0.27-1.88; p = .009), respectively, compared with the nonobese group. In a subgroup analysis, an improved survival was observed in obese patients with body mass index ranging between 30 and 39.9 kg/m2 compared with nonobese patients (relative risk, 0.86; 95% confidence interval, 0.81-0.91; p < .001).

Conclusion: Obesity in critically ill patients is not associated with excess mortality but is significantly related to prolonged duration of mechanical ventilation and intensive care unit length of stay. Future studies should target this population for intervention studies to reduce their greater resource utilization.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Causality
  • Critical Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Publication Bias
  • Respiration, Artificial / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk
  • Survival Analysis