Obesity and Anesthesia- Yes, There is a Connection

Chicago — (January 13, 2010) 

At a time of year when people make plans to drop a few pounds, perhaps even consider bariatric surgery, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) wants to ensure the public has the facts regarding one’s weight and the impact it may have on his or her anesthesia experience. The ASA has launched a campaign to educate the public on the issue, and empower the patient to make important lifestyle changes, whenever possible, before going under the knife.

“The health implications of obesity are enormous. Illnesses associated with obesity such as Type 2 Diabetes, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, hypertension and cardiovascular disease have significant implications for patients requiring surgery and anesthesia,” said Martin Nitsun, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, NorthShore University HealthSystem. "Obesity related changes in anatomy make airway management in this population challenging.”

Airway obstruction due to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can result in decreased airflow and oxygen in patients receiving even minimal amounts of sedation. Placement of a breathing tube (intubation) may require special equipment and techniques. Anesthesiologists have to anticipate these difficulties, prepare for them and counsel patients regarding potential complications.

The ASA recommends that the best way for an obese patient to prepare for surgery and to attempt to minimize the risks associated with obesity (short of losing weight prior to elective surgery) is to have a thorough exam done by a primary care doctor prior to surgery.

Visit the Lifeline to Modern Medicine Web site today to learn more about pregnancy and obesity considerations, factors specific to bariatric surgery, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), and what to look for in ambulatory centers if you are an obese patient.


Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 52,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at asahq.org. To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount. Join the ANESTHESIOLOGYTM 2014 social conversation today. Like ASA on Facebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter and use the hashtag #ANES2014.



American Society of Anesthesiologists