Obese children have a higher likelihood of having problems with airway obstruction and other breathing-related functions during surgery than their normal-weight counterparts, suggests a study from the University of Michigan Health System.
Published in the journal Anesthesiology, the study suggested that obese children were more likely than normal kids to have a higher rate of difficult mask ventilation, airway obstruction, major oxygen desaturation (a decrease in oxygen in the patient's blood), and other airway problems during surgery.
"To our knowledge, this is the first study of its kind," says lead author Dr. Alan R. Tait, professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at the U-M Health System.
The author notes that the study was conducted to examine the effect of overweight and obesity on the outcomes of operations in children undergoing elective non-cardiac surgery.
"Based on current trends, it is likely that anaesthesiologists will continue to care for an increasing number of children who are overweight or obese, so it is vital that we are aware of the higher risk they face in the operating room," Tait says.
During the study, the researchers studied the experiences of 2,025 children—1,380 with normal weight, 351 overweight, and 294 obese—who were having elective surgery. The participants ranged in age from 2 to 18 years old.
While writing a report on the findings, the authors noted that obese children also had a higher rate of illnesses and conditions such as asthma, hypertension, sleep apnea and Type II diabetes, which may contribute to problems during surgery.
The figures in the report suggest that major airway obstructions occurred in 19 percent of obese children during the study, compared with 11 percent of normal-weight children.
They also showed that about nine percent of obese children experienced difficult mask ventilation, compared with two percent of normal-weight children.
Seventeen percent of obese children in the study experienced major oxygen desaturation (decreased oxygen in the blood), compared with nine percent of normal-weight children.
In comparison with 16 percent of normal-weight children, the authors report that 28 percent of obese children had asthma.
However, they also noted that despite the increased risk of adverse events among obese children, none resulted in significant illness.