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Severely Obese Patients At Higher Risk For Infections After Heart Bypass

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Severe obesity may increase risks of complications after heart bypass surgery, a new study has found.

In this new research, scientists reviewed data from over 7,500 Canadians who had coronary artery bypass surgery between 2003 and 2014. This kind of surgery redirects blood flow to the heart from around clogged arteries.

The researchers found that severe obesity appeared to increase the odds of developing an infection after heart bypass surgery compared to normal-weight people. Severely obese patients were also more likely to stay in the hospital longer than normal-weight patients.

People with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 and above are considered severely obese. BMI is the ratio of a person’s body fat to his or her weight and height. A person with a BMI between 35 and 39.9 is considered severely obese, while 30 to 34.9 is obese. A normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9.

For example, a woman who is 5 foot 4 inches in height would normally weigh between 110 to 145 pounds. She would be considered overweight at 146 to 174 pounds, and obese at a weight over 174. She would be severely obese if she weighs more than 233 pounds, the researchers explained.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 400,000 people in the USA have a coronary artery bypass annually. Around seven in 10 adults over the age of 20 are overweight or obese.

In the study results, severely obese patients were shown to be three times more likely to get an infection, and spent a median of one more day in the hospital compared to normal-weight people. Among severely obese patients, those who had diabetes and developed an infection stayed in the hospital three times longer than other patients.

In addition, severely obese patients were 56% more likely to have complications in the 30 days following a surgery. The risk of complications was 35% higher among moderately obese patients, says the study.

“Based on the results of this study, it appears that addressing infection risk might be an effective strategy to decrease the length-of-stay for patients with obesity who undergo coronary artery bypass surgery,” says lead study author Mary Forhan, an assistant professor in the department of occupational therapy, faculty of rehabilitation medicine at University of Alberta in Edmonton.

It is unclear why severely obese patients are more at risk to develop infections, the study says. Forhan notes, “We need further study that includes ways of preventing infection using evidence-based methods, and determining if such methods meet the needs of coronary artery bypass patients with moderate to severe obesity.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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