Obese patients are twice as likely as non-obese patients to develop serious airway complications while under a general anaesthetic, a new study has found.
And severely obese patients were four times more likely to develop such problems, according to the report.
In the study, researchers analysed all major airway complications that occurred among patients who received general anaesthesia in the United Kingdom in 2008-2009. The focus of the study was on events that led to severe consequences, such as the need for a breathing tube to be inserted in the front of the neck, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, brain damage or death.
The study was published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia.
Obese patients need to be informed of risks
"The report is important for patients and anaesthetists alike," study co-author Dr Nick Woodall, a consultant anaesthetist at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in the United Kingdom, said.
"The information will enable obese patients to be better informed about the risks of anaesthesia and to give informed consent. We hope our findings will encourage anaesthetists to recognise these risks and choose anaesthetic techniques with a lower risk, such as regional anaesthesia, where possible, and also prepare for airway difficulties when anaesthetising obese patients," Woodall said.
The researchers also examined major airway complications in ICU patients and found that obese patients were more likely to die if they experienced airway complications while in the ICU, but use of a breathing monitor called a capnograph can greatly reduce brain damage and deaths caused by airway problems. The absence of a capnograph contributed to 74% of these types of events in ICUs during the study.
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