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Obesity and Anesthesia – Risks

July 26, 2021


Obesity can make surgery and anesthesia more challenging. If you are overweight or obese and planning to have surgery, you should be aware that excess weight can put you at risk for certain side effects and complications. These can result from the surgery itself like deep vein thrombosis or from the anesthesia you might need during your surgery. One of the biggest concerns is that being overweight makes you more likely to have a condition called sleep apnea, which causes you to temporarily stop breathing while you sleep. Acute respiratory failure can be a serious complication. You may also have medical conditions that are caused or made worse by the extra weight, and they can increase your risk for complications during surgery. For example, your blood pressure may be higher than normal. You can develop an irregular heartbeat, and can be vulnerable to heart failure. You may have diabetes or reflux, also called GERD, which can negatively affect your surgery and anesthesia outcome. But even if you don’t have any of these conditions, being significantly overweight can lead to challenges with a number of anesthesia related processes. These include locating veins to place an intravenous access, to deliver anesthesia and lifesaving emergency medications, determining the right dose of medications, ensuring you get enough oxygen and air flow, especially if you have sleep apnea, adding to the time it takes to regain consciousness after surgery, and your recovery time, increased risk of breathing problems with narcotics and other pain medications, and difficulty with placing a breathing tube or airway management in general.

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