Study Finds Obese More Likely to Experience Breast Surgery Complications

New research shows that obese people who undergo breast surgery may be 12 times more likely to suffer from breast surgery complications. It is estimated that a third of adults in the United States are obese.

Johns Hopkins University researchers examined insurance claims of 2,403 obese patients and 5,597 normal weight patients who had breast procedures, including breast lifts, breast reductions and breast augmentations, between 2002 and 2006.

Just over 18 percent of the obese group had at least one complication within 30 days of surgery, compared to only 2.2 percent of non-obese patients.

It found that obese patients were 22 times more likely to have inflammation; 13 times more likely to develop infection; and 11 times more likely to experience pain.

Breast reduction was the most common procedure for patients in the study, accounting for 80.7% of surgeries in the obese group and 63.8% in the non-obese group. Next was breast reconstruction, followed by breast augmentation and breast lift.

Individual breast procedures all had higher complication rates for obese patients, and complications were most common with breast augmentation among obese patients, with half of obese patients experiencing complications.

Complication rates for each breast procedure were as follows:

  • Breast augmentation – 50.5% among obese and 4.4% among non-obese
  • Breast lift – 24.1% among obese and 11.4% among non-obese
  • Breast lift with augmentation – 38.9% among obese and 5.6% among non-obese
  • Breast reconstruction – 29.4% among obese and 1.8% among non-obese
  • Breast reduction – 14.6% among obese and 1.7% among non-obese

Based on their findings, the researchers recommended that patients should be informed about the risk of obesity prior to breast surgery procedures. According to the authors, the reasons for the higher risk of complications with obesity may be greater space for infection to set in from larger surgical wounds and slower healing due to poorer blood flow in fat tissue than in other types of tissue.

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Dr. Michael J. Will cosmetic surgeon Maryland received his bachelor’s degree from Washington and Jefferson College, his dental degree from Georgetown University and his medical degree from the University of Texas.

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