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Excess Weight Poses Anesthesia Challenge
Date:1/19/2010

Obese patients can take steps to minimize risk, experts say

TUESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Many health risks of excess weight are well-known, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, to name a few. But an obese patient is also a challenge for an anesthesiologist to care for during surgery.

"At least 30 percent of our patients are obese," said Dr. Kumar Belani, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Minneapolis, who wants to raise awareness about potential complications that they face.

Even though a recent report has found obesity rates leveling off in the United States, about 34 percent of U.S. adults are still obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anesthesiologists who care for these patients say they are medically problematic for many reasons, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists has launched a public education campaign.

If patients are more aware of the challenges, the thinking is, they can work together with the physicians to help minimize risk.

"It's important for the patient to be educated that as far as anesthesia, obesity has an effect," said Dr. Martin Nitsun, a clinical assistant professor of anesthesia at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and a staff anesthesiologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Ill.

An obese patient is likely to have many health problems, including a higher rate of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and a condition called sleep apnea, in which breathing pauses during sleep, Nitsun and Belani said.

Monitoring of vital signs during surgery and anesthesia is crucial, but made more difficult when patients are obese. For instance, veins can be harder to locate, making starting the IV line difficult. Finding a blood pressure cuff that fits the arm can be challenging. In those with apnea, the airway obst
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