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Thin People May Be at Greater Risk for Post-Surgery Death
Date:11/22/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Thin people appear to have a higher risk of dying within 30 days of an operation than heavier people, researchers have found.

The reason for the finding isn't clear, the study authors said. They set out to see what effect obesity had on survival after surgery, but instead found that the thinner a patient was, the greater the risk of death. The measurement the investigators used was body mass index (BMI), which takes into account both height and weight.

"Patients with low body mass index are at significantly higher risk of 30-day mortality following general and vascular surgical procedures," said lead researcher George Stukenborg, an associate professor in the department of public health sciences at the University of Virginia.

Body mass index is a significant predictor of death risk, independent of the differences in risk associated with the type of surgical procedure and other patient characteristics, he noted.

"Low body mass index should be recognized as an important risk factor for 30-day mortality and should be taken into account in preoperative decision-making, discharge planning and patient education," Stukenborg said.

The study was published in the Nov. 21 online edition of the Archives of Surgery.

For the study, Stukenborg's team looked at deaths in the month after operations in almost 190,000 people who underwent surgery in 2005 or 2006. The data came from the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program.

Of these patients, more than 3,200 died within 30 days after their operation. Of those with a BMI of less than 23.1, which put them in the normal-to-thin range, the percentage who died was 2.8 percent, compared with 1 percent among people whose BMI was 35.3 or higher (considered obese).

And those with a BMI of less than 23.1 had a 40 percent higher risk of
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