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Physiological and management implications of obesity in critical illness

Physiological and management implications of obesity in critical illness

Annals of the American Thoracic Society 11(8): 1286-1297

Obesity is highly prevalent in the United States and is becoming increasingly common worldwide. The anatomic and physiological changes that occur in obese individuals may have an impact across the spectrum of critical illness. Obese patients may be more susceptible to hypoxemia and hypercapnia. During mechanical ventilation, elevated end-expiratory pressures may be required to improve lung compliance and to prevent ventilation-perfusion mismatch due to distal airway collapse. Several studies have shown an increased risk of organ dysfunction such as the acute respiratory distress syndrome and acute kidney injury in obese patients. Predisposition to ventricular hypertrophy and increases in blood volume should be considered in fluid management decisions. Obese patients have accelerated muscle losses in critical illness, making nutrition essential, although the optimal predictive equation to estimate nutritional needs or formulation for obese patients is not well established. Many common intensive care unit medications are not well studied in obese patients, necessitating understanding of pharmacokinetic concepts and consultation with pharmacists. Obesity is associated with higher risk of deep venous thrombosis and catheter-associated bloodstream infections, likely related to greater average catheter dwell times. Logistical issues such as blood pressure cuff sizing, ultrasound assistance for procedures, diminished quality of some imaging modalities, and capabilities of hospital equipment such as beds and lifts are important considerations. Despite the physiological alterations and logistical challenges involved, it is not clear whether obesity has an effect on mortality or long-term outcomes from critical illness. Effects may vary by type of critical illness, obesity severity, and obesity-associated comorbidities.

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Accession: 055001114

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 25172506

DOI: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201404-159FR

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