Search press releases
Search entire Web site Go
UMHS Home/Logo

February 22, 2008

Childhood obesity leads to higher rate of problems during surgery, University of Michigan study finds

Obese children had more trouble with airway obstructions, ventilation

Ann Arbor, MI – Add this to the growing list of health challenges faced by obese children: A new study from the University of Michigan Health System finds that obese children are much more likely than normal-weight children to have problems with airway obstruction and other breathing-related functions during surgery.

Obese ChildrenObese children were found 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. The study appears in the March issue of the journal Anesthesiology.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study of its kind,” says lead author Alan R. Tait, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at the U-M Health System. This large-scale prospective study examines 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 anesthesiologists will continue to care for an increasing number of children who are overweight or obese,” Tait says, “so it is vital that we are aware of the higher risk they face in the operating room.”

Dr. Tait
Alan R. Tait, Ph.D.,

Researchers studied the experiences of 2,025 children who were having elective surgery. Of those, 1,380 were normal weight, 351 were overweight and 294 were obese. Children ranged in age from 2 to 18 years old.

In addition to the problems the obese patients experienced during surgery, they also had a higher rate of illnesses and conditions including asthma, hypertension, sleep apnea and Type II diabetes. These conditions all can contribute to problems during surgery, Tait notes.

By the numbers:

  • An estimated 15 to 17 percent of children and adolescents in the United States are considered obese.
  • Major airway obstructions occurred in 19 percent of obese children, compared with 11 percent of normal-weight children.
  • Nearly 9 percent of obese children experienced difficult mask ventilation, compared with 2 percent of normal-weight children.
  • 17 percent of obese children in the study experienced major oxygen desaturation (decreased oxygen in the blood), compared with 9 percent of normal-weight children.
  • 28 percent of obese children had asthma, compared with 16 percent of normal-weight children.

It should be noted however, that despite the increased risk of adverse events among children who are obese, none resulted in significant illness.

In addition to Tait, authors were Ian Lewis, MBBS, MRCP, FRCA; Terri Voepel-Lewis, MSN, RN; Constance Burke, BSN, RN; and Amy Kostrzewa, M.D., all of the U-M Department of Anesthesiology.

The research was funded by the U-M Department of Anesthesiology.

Reference: Anesthesiology, March 2008, Vol. 108, Issue 3.

Written by: Katie Vloet

E-mail this information to a friend

Recent Press Releases


Newsroom HOME

Contact Media Team

Join the Media List

Search Releases & Clips

UMHS Facts & Figures

Background Info


Our Publications

FAQs for Media

Medical School | Hospitals and Health Centers | School of Nursing | U-M

University of Michigan Health System
1500 E. Medical Center Drive  Ann Arbor, MI 48109  734-936-4000
(c) copyright Regents of the University of Michigan
Developed & maintained by: Public Relations & Marketing Communications
Contact UMHS


The University of Michigan Health System web site does not provide specific medical advice and does not endorse any medical or professional service obtained through information provided on this site or any links to this site.
Complete Disclaimer and Privacy Statement


Health Topics A-Z

For Patients & Families

For Health Professionals

Search Tools & Index