Anesthesia for the morbidly obese parturient

Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2009 Jun;22(3):341-6. doi: 10.1097/ACO.0b013e328329a5b8.


Purpose of review: Obesity is a growing healthcare problem worldwide, which also affects the pregnant population. Obesity occurs with increasing frequency during pregnancy. Obesity increases the maternal, fetal and neonatal risks. Also, the anesthesiologist is confronted with significantly more problems when the parturient is overweight or obese. The present review focuses on the anesthetic implications of obesity in pregnancy.

Recent findings: In recent years, many authors have stressed the consequences of obesity in pregnancy. More pregnancy-associated complications such as preeclampsia occur, and more medical interventions are also required such as operative delivery, when patients are obese compared with the nonobese population. Recent anesthetic evidence also shows that obese parturients are at increased risk of anesthesia-related complications such as failed intubation and aspiration.

Summary: Anesthesia-related complications are more frequent in obese parturients. Most authors and opinion leaders agree that regional anesthesia is the preferred technique for Cesarean section in obese patients, and that efforts to place early labor epidural analgesia should be optimized in order to be able to avoid general anesthesia when unplanned Cesarean section is required.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesia, Obstetrical*
  • Cesarean Section
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity, Morbid / complications*
  • Obesity, Morbid / epidemiology
  • Obesity, Morbid / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology*