US Pharm. 2007;32(12):93.

A meta-analysis of obese intensive care unit (ICU) patients revealed that obese patients are no more likely to die than other patients while in the ICU; however, they are more likely to stay longer in the ICU and need mechanical ventilation for longer periods than other patients.

According to Dr. Morohunfolu Akinnusi, MD, of the State University at Buffalo, and colleagues, the findings held true for whether patients were in a medical or surgical ICU. One surprising fact uncovered in their research was that people who were overweight but not morbidly obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more but less than 40, might even do slightly better than the non-obese patient when they are treated in an intensive care unit.

Dr. Akinnusi said there were several possible explanations for this finding. One simple explanation was that obese patients may be getting closer attention from the medical staff because of the presumed additional health risks for many overweight patients. Other theories are that cytokines released by adipose tissue have beneficial effects, or that obese patients are better able to tolerate the catabolism associated with serious illness or trauma.

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