The obesity epidemic is a global problem, which is set to increase over time. However, the effects of obesity on the respiratory system are often underappreciated. In this review, we will discuss the mechanical effects of obesity on lung physiology and the function of adipose tissue as an endocrine organ producing systemic inflammation and effecting central respiratory control. Obesity plays a key role in the development of obstructive sleep apnea and obesity hypoventilation syndrome. Asthma is more common and often harder to treat in the obese population, and in this study, we review the effects of obesity on airway inflammation and respiratory mechanics. We also discuss the compounding effects of obesity on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and the paradoxical interaction of body mass index and COPD severity. Many practical challenges exist in caring for obese patients, and we highlight the complications faced by patients undergoing surgical procedures, especially given the increased use of bariatric surgery. Ultimately, a greater understanding of the effects of obesity on the respiratory disease and the provision of adequate health care resources is vital in order to care for this increasingly important patient population.
Keywords: anesthesia; lung function; obesity; obesity hypoventilation syndrome; obstructive sleep apnea.