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Obese patients at higher infection risk

Article-Obese patients at higher infection risk

Baltimore — Obese patients undergoing colon surgery are 60 percent more likely to develop dangerous and costly surgical site infections than their nonobese counterparts, Medical News Today reports.

A Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine study found that patients who contract such infections are three times as likely to be readmitted for hospital care than those who don’t. Moreover, such patients run up an average of $17,000 more in per-patient costs, and they have longer hospital stays.

Investigators analyzed claims data from eight different Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance plans for partial or total colon removal surgeries performed on adults ages 18 to 64 between 2002 and 2008. They identified 7,020 patients, 1,243 of whom were obese.

Researchers looked at 30-day infection rates and calculated total costs from all healthcare claims for 90 days following surgery.

Overall, investigators found that the average cost of caring for a patient with a surgical site infection was $32,182 compared with $15,131 for each patient who did not get infected. Those with infections stayed in the hospital for an average of 9.5 days compared with 8.1 days for those without. The probability of hospital readmission in infected patients was 27.8 percent versus 6.8 percent in noninfected patients.

When they had to be readmitted, patients with surgical site infections stayed an average of two days longer than those without.

Colon surgery performed to treat colon cancer, diverticulitis and inflammatory bowel disease cost roughly $300 more per obese patient than for others, whether an infection occurred or not. Obese patients also had slightly longer hospital stays, regardless of infection.

Medical News Today quotes lead author Elizabeth C. Wick, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins, as saying, “Obesity is a leading risk factor for surgical site infections, and those infections truly tax the healthcare system. The burdens of caring for obese patients need to be better recognized.”

Statistics show that 34 percent of adults in the United States are categorized as obese (body mass index above 30), up from 15 percent a decade ago.

The study was published in Archives of Surgery.

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