Obesity in anesthesia and intensive care

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Apr;27(2):247-60. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2013.02.001. Epub 2013 Mar 5.


Obesity is a global epidemic increasingly affecting management of anesthesia as well as intensive care medicine. Possible improvements in therapy require consideration of the specific pathophysiology of the obese, their concomitant diseases, and the complications associated with morbid obesity. Systematic assessment of perioperative risk factors is essential for an appropriate management. Paradoxically, overweight and moderately obese patients undergoing surgery have a lower risk when compared to patients with normal weight. The highest mortality and morbidity rates in this setting are reported for underweight and morbidly obese patients. The better chance of survival when compared to normal-weight individuals in the perioperative setting has been described the obesity paradox. In particular, the commitment of all involved physicians to improve all aspects of care will reduce the perioperative risk in obese patients. Physiological and pharmacological characteristics of the obese should also be considered. Furthermore, adequate technical equipment and practical skills of all members of the anesthesia team significantly contribute to risk reduction and therapeutic success in obese patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia / methods*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Comorbidity
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Risk Factors