Association of Severe Obesity and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease With Pneumonia Following Non-Cardiac Surgery

Kwaku Owusu-Bediako, Kayla Pfaff, Nguyen K. Tram, David L. Stahl, Joseph D. Tobias, Olubukola O. Nafiu, Christian Mpody


Background: Pneumonia is the third most common surgical complication after urinary tract infection and wound infections. In addition to increased mortality, patients who develop postoperative pneumonia have a higher risk of prolonged hospital stay, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and higher healthcare costs. Obesity and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are both independent risk factors for the development and severity of postoperative pneumonia, although the combined effect of these comorbidities is unknown. Therefore, we evaluated whether the combination of severe obesity and COPD is associated with an increased risk of postoperative pneumonia.

Methods: We performed a multicenter retrospective cohort study of 365,273 patients aged 18 - 64 years who were either severely obese (body mass index (BMI) ? 40 kg/m2) or normal-weight (BMI between 18.6 and 24.9 kg/m2) and underwent general surgery, orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, otolaryngology surgery, urology surgery, and vascular surgery in the American College of Surgeons (ACS) National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) participating hospitals from 2014 to 2018. We evaluated the combined effect of COPD and severe obesity on the risk for postoperative pneumonia, unplanned tracheal reintubation, and extended length of stay.

Results: The co-occurrence of severe obesity and COPD appeared to have a protective effect on the risk of postoperative pneumonia. In the presence of COPD, patients with severe obesity were 14% less likely to develop pneumonia compared to their normal-weight counterparts (2.9% vs. 4.4%; adjusted relative risk (RR): 0.76; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.60, 0.95). In addition, in the presence of COPD, severe obesity conferred a lower risk for requiring an extended length of stay (37.6% vs. 47.9%; adjusted RR: 0.83; 95% CI: 0.78, 0.89).

Conclusions: Counterintuitively, the co-occurrence of severe obesity with COPD appeared to buffer the negative impact of COPD on postoperative pneumonia, unplanned tracheal reintubation, and prolonged hospital stay after noncardiac surgery. These findings are consistent with the obesity paradox and warrant further investigations.

J Clin Med Res. 2022;14(6):237-243


Severe obesity; COPD; Postoperative pneumonia; Unplanned tracheal reintubation

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