Background: Pulmonary complications following injury significantly contribute to subsequent mortality. Obese patients have preexisting risk factors for pulmonary complications, and are at risk for these complications following elective surgery. Whether or not obesity contributes to pulmonary complications after critical injury is poorly understood.
Methods: A secondary analysis of a prospective cohort study of critically injured adults requiring at least 48 h of intensive care was performed. Patients were classified into the following body mass index groups: < or = 18.5 kg/m2 (underweight); 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2 (normal); 25 to 29.9 kg/m2 (overweight); 30.0 to 39.9 kg/m2 (obese); and > or = 40.0 kg/m2 (severely obese). Outcomes included the rates of ARDS and pneumonia, the placement of a tracheostomy tube, and in-hospital mortality rate.
Results: A total of 1,291 patients were available for analysis, and 30% of these patients were classified as either obese or severely obese. The age-, gender-, and severity-adjusted rate of ARDS was lower in severely obese patients (odds ratio, 0.36; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.13 to 0.99) compared to normal weight patients. The rates of pneumonia (37%), tracheostomy (10%), and in-hospital mortality (11%) did not differ among the groups. Despite no difference in pulmonary complications, the severely obese group had an ICU length of stay that was 4.8 days (95% CI, 1.8 to 7.7 days) longer than the normal weight group.
Conclusion: Obesity does not appear to be an independent risk factor for increased pulmonary complications after critical injury, but severely obese patients are likely to require longer ICU stays.