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Surgical Risk and Obesity

If a surgeon asks you to lose weight before performing a surgery, it is not for personal reasons.  It is usually because they care and feel that it is medically necessary for you to do so. They want to lower your surgical risk and put you in position for the best surgical outcomes.

Obesity is an increasingly common condition that we are seeing in patients with orthopedic problems.  Every pound of body weight places 4-6 pounds of pressure on each knee joint.  As you can imagine, carrying extra weight is putting excessive stresses on your joints, leading to even more wear and tear on them as you age.  It is one of the most common diseases that adversely affects bone and joint health.  More than 2/3 of adults in the US are overweight and more than 35% of adults are considered obese.  Unfortunately, these numbers continue to grow.

There is a definite increase in surgical complications and risk associated with obesity.  Studies have shown that with obesity, there is an increased risk of wound infections, heart attacks and higher incidence of post surgical blood clots.  In addition, there is a much higher chance of longer surgical times and potential failure of the new joint that has been replaced.

Surgeons like to operate, but as physicians, we also need to keep our patients' best interest in mind.  This may involve delaying certain surgeries where weight loss could improve the outcome of treatment and concurrently reduce potentially serious and life-altering complications.  Please keep in mind that taking care of your joint problem is a team effort- your own efforts can help reduce risk and improve your results.

 

-Michele M. Schulz, MD