Pediatric obesity has become a growing and alarming trend in America, doubling among children in the past two decades and tripling among adolescents. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by the CDC, approximately 16.9 percent of children and adolescents aged 2-19 were considered obese, with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30. Obese children and adolescents may experience severe health issues associated with their weight – including asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes – and they are even more at risk during a surgical procedure.
While children’s airways are still developing and may collapse during the administration of anesthesia, obese children are even more likely to experience breathing problems during surgery because they have extra tissue that may compress the airway. And although children and adolescents receive anesthesia by both inhalation and intravenously, anesthesia is most often given by mask to younger patients, which can pose more risks when the patient is obese. It can also be difficult to find a vein to administer intravenous anesthesia or medications required immediately in life threatening emergencies. Representing the physicians responsible for protecting the Vital Health of patients when they are at their most vulnerable – before, during and after surgery – the ASA is taking action to reduce surgery-related risks in obese children and adolescents by providing parents with information to improve their children’s surgical outcomes and overall health.
To learn more about pediatric obesity and the potential impact on the anesthesia experience, visit these FAQs.