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Resource: Surgery with Obesity at UPMC in Central Pa.

Obesity is a risk factor for the surgical patient. Surgical complications associated with obesity include wound infection, deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), anesthesia issues and cardiovascular (heart) risks.

How Obesity Affects Surgery

Excessive fat tissue increases the risk for poor wound healing due to decreased blood flow and oxygen delivery to the tissue. Additionally excess fat tissue can create too much tension on the surgical site, influencing the amount of time it takes a wound to heal. Obesity also contributes to longer operating times, which is linked with increased risk of wound infection. 

Furthermore, delivery of anesthesia (the medication that puts the patient to sleep) may be compromised in obese patients. Obesity increases the difficulty in locating veins in order to deliver anesthesia and life-saving emergency medications. It can also make the placement of the breathing tube challenging. In addition, obesity can make determining and providing the right dose of anesthetic medication more difficult. 

The heart is under increased pressure in an obese individual. There is a higher risk of heart attack, angina (heart) pain, stroke and high blood pressure due to the lack of oxygenation of the heart muscles. The use of anesthesia may raise the risk of these cardiovascular adverse events in the obese individual.

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