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Obese at risk for airway problems

Article-Obese at risk for airway problems

Norwich, England — Obese patients are twice as likely as nonobese patients to develop serious airway complications while under general anesthesia — and the severely obese are four times more likely, HealthDay News reports.

Researchers at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital analyzed all major airway complications that occurred among U.K. patients who received general anesthesia in 2008 and 2009. The study focused on events that led to severe consequences, such as the need for a breathing tube to be inserted in the throat, admission to intensive care, brain damage or death.

While investigators also found that obese ICU patients were more likely to die if they experienced airway complications, they also found that use of a breathing monitor called a capnograph can greatly reduce brain damage and deaths caused by airway problems. Absence of a capnograph contributed to 74 percent of these brain damage and fatal cases in ICUs during the study’s time frame.

HealthDay News quotes study co-author Nick Woodall, M.D., as saying, “We hope our findings will encourage anesthetists to recognize these risks and choose anesthetic techniques with a lower risk, such as regional anesthesia, where possible, and also prepare for airway difficulties when anesthetizing obese patients.”

The study was published online March 29 in the British Journal of Anaesthesia.

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