The obesity prevalence is increasing in surgical population. As the number of obese surgical patients increases, so does the demand for mechanical ventilation. Nevertheless, ventilatory strategies in this population are challenging, since obesity results in pathophysiological changes in respiratory function. Areas covered: We reviewed the impact of obesity on respiratory system and the effects of controlled invasive mechanical ventilation strategies in obese patients undergoing surgery. To date, there is no consensus regarding the optimal invasive mechanical ventilation strategy for obese surgical patients, and no evidence that possible intraoperative beneficial effects on oxygenation and mechanics translate into better postoperative pulmonary function or improved outcomes. Expert commentary: Before determining the ideal intraoperative ventilation strategy, it is important to analyze the pathophysiology and comorbidities of each obese patient. Protective ventilation with low tidal volume, driving pressure, energy, and mechanical power should be employed during surgery; however, further studies are required to clarify the most effective ventilation strategies, such as the optimal positive end-expiratory pressure and whether recruitment maneuvers minimize lung injury. In this context, an ongoing trial of intraoperative ventilation in obese patients (PROBESE) should help determine the mechanical ventilation strategy that best improves clinical outcome in patients with body mass index≥35kg/m2.
Keywords: Obesity; driving pressure; mechanical ventilation; pathophysiology; surgery.