Obesity and post-operative cognitive dysfunction: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2016 Sep;32(6):643-51. doi: 10.1002/dmrr.2786. Epub 2016 Apr 6.


Background: Post-operative cognitive dysfunction, a condition distinct from post-operative delirium (POD), occurs frequently after surgery, and is related to dementia and premature death. Obesity increases the risk of late-life cognitive impairment, but little is known about its role in post-operative cognitive dysfunction. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies on the association between obesity and risk of post-operative cognitive dysfunction.

Methods: PubMed and the Cochrane Library were systematically searched. Studies were included if they had prospective designs, reported on human adults undergoing surgery, if cognitive function was measured pre- and post-surgery, if obesity, body mass index (BMI) and/or body weight were ascertained, and if associations with post-operative cognitive dysfunction were reported as relative risks or odds ratios. Underweight, weight loss, and post-operative delirium were not considered.

Results: Inclusion criteria were met by six articles. Samples totaled 1432 older patients (mean age ≥62 years) who were followed up for 24 h to 12 months after surgery. Analysis of studies with obesity defined as a categorical measure found a non-significantly higher risk of post-operative cognitive dysfunction among persons with BMI > 30 kg/m(2) versus ≤30 kg/m(2) (relative risk 1.27; 95% confidence interval 0.95, 1.70; p = 0.10). No such associations were found for studies that analysed BMI or body weight continuously as predictors of post-operative cognitive dysfunction (relative risk 0.98 per kg/m(2) ; 95% confidence interval 0.93, 1.03, p = 0.45; relative risk 0.99 per kg; 95% confidence interval 0.89, 1.09; p = 0.83, respectively).

Conclusions: Few studies have addressed the topic, and the results of these studies provide only limited support for an increased risk of post-operative cognitive dysfunction in patients who are obese. Further large-scale, prospective investigations are necessary for clarification. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: POCD; adiposity; body weight; obesity; post-operative cognitive dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Prognosis