Updated 29 June 2016

Obesity complicates treatment of orthopaedic injuries

A new study found an association between obesity and increased rates of lower-extremity injuries and orthopaedic surgery.

Obesity complicates the treatment of broken bones and other major joint injuries, a new study suggests.

Longer hospital stays

"Overall, this study found an association between obesity and increased rates of lower-extremity injuries and orthopaedic surgery," said lead author and orthopaedic surgeon Dr Heather Licht. However, the study did not prove that obesity causes orthopaedic injuries and related surgeries.

For the study, researchers from Baylor Scott & White Health in Temple, Texas, analysed data from 300 patients treated for multiple orthopaedic injuries at U.S. trauma centres between 2006 and 2011. The investigators found that 72 percent of obese patients required surgery, compared with about 55 percent of non-obese patients.

Read: Is obesity triggered by 'different' brain activity in kids?

The more obese a patient was, the greater the likelihood of surgery, the study authors reported. While 67 percent of patients with the lowest level of obesity required surgery, the rate was more than 93 percent among the most obese patients.

Obesity was also tied to longer hospital stays, the findings showed. Patients with normal body mass index had intensive care unit stays of about 7 days and hospital stays of about 12 days, compared with nearly 10 days and just over 16 days, respectively, for obese patients.

Hospital costs were about $160,000 (R2.3m) for non-obese patients and nearly $235,000 (R3.4m) for obese patients. And the most severely obese patients were more likely to be discharged to a continuing-care facility, according to the report.

Read: Obese like both sugar and carbs

The study was published recently in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

"Even when patients have the same severity of injuries, resource utilisation is higher among patients with obesity, compared to non-obese patients," Licht said in a journal news release.

More than 38 percent of Americans are obese, the researchers pointed out.

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Image: Obesity joint pain problem from iStock


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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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