According to a new study published in the November issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), women who are considered to be medically obese, face a substantially higher risk of complications after undergoing elective breast surgery, in comparison to non-obese women undergoing identical procedures.

After analyzing the insurance claims of nearly 8,000 women electing to have breast surgery between the years of 2002 and 2006, Catherine Le Chen, MD and colleagues of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, concluded that obese women were nearly 12 times more likely to experience complications following their operation verses non-obese women.

Complications involving inflammation were the most predominant. Obese women were shown to be 20 times more likely than non-obese women to experience complications involving inflammation. Obese women also presented a higher risk for complications such as infection, pain and fluid collections (seronma or hematoma) following breast surgery.

Current Surgical Quality Metrics in Breast Surgery Patients May Not Accurately Reflect Obese Patient Risk

While researchers were quick to point out that the study only included elective breast surgeries such as breast reduction and breast reconstruction, which are typically covered under health insurance plans, the results did imply that current healthcare quality metrics used to evaluate potential surgical risks do not accurately capture the increased risks associated with this population.

“While the effect of obesity on disease has been established, its impact on short-term surgical outcomes has not been quantified,” Dr. Chen and colleagues recently divulged. “As quality measures are increasingly applied to surgical evaluation and reimbursement, appropriate risk adjustment to account for the effect of obesity on outcomes will be essential.”

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