Obesity and Anesthesia


More than one-third of Americans are obese or significantly overweight and at increased risk for a number of health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke.

If you or a loved one are overweight or obese and planning to have surgery, you should be aware that excess weight can make it more challenging to safely administer anesthesia during surgery. Common challenges in administering anesthesia in overweight patients may include:

  • Increasing difficulty in locating veins in order to deliver anesthesia and life-saving emergency medications intravenously
  • Determining and providing the right dose of medications
  • Ensuring you get enough oxygen and airflow. Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a chronic medical problem common with obesity, can present with serious breathing problems before, during, and after surgery
  • Taking a longer time to regain consciousness
  • Increasing the risk of affecting breathing with narcotics and other pain medicines
  • Placing a breathing tube

Improving your health before surgery, including losing weight under a doctor’s supervision, can help make surgery as safe as possible, decrease your chances of complications and help you get back on your feet faster. Your physician anesthesiologist will meet with you prior to surgery to discuss your overall health including your weight and any other medical issues you might have such as high blood pressure, diabetes or gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). With an understanding of your current health conditions, your physician anesthesiologist can be fully prepared to provide you the safest, highest-quality care during surgery or a procedure.