Being overweight may protect patients after heart surgery

20 January 2017        

Category: Research

Person standing on a scale

Overweight and obese patients are less likely to die in hospital after a heart operation than patients who are a normal weight, according to a study published in the journal Circulation.

BHF -funded researchers at the University of Leicester collected data about 401,227 adults in the UK and Ireland who had undergone cardiac surgery between 1st April 2002 and 31st March 2013. 

Patients’ body mass index (BMI) was categorised into six groups; underweight (BMI under 18.5 Kg/m2), normal weight (BMI 18.5-25), overweight (BMI 25-30), obese class I (BMI 30-35), obese class II (BMI 35-40), and obese class III (BMI over 40). 

What did the study show?

When they looked at how well these patients fared in hospital after their surgery the team found that overweight and obese patients were less likely to have died than patients who were a normal weight, while patients who were underweight had a higher risk of dying. 

What does this mean for patients?

This study is interesting as it raises the possibility of new strategies to improve survival rates in normal and underweight patients following surgery.

This research is not implying that putting on weight is a good idea, as research shows that being overweight or obese can:

  • raise your blood cholesterol levels
  • increase your blood pressure
  • increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Being overweight will increase a person's risk of needing to undergo heart surgery in the first place.

Long-term outcomes are still unclear

Whilst this study is the largest of its kind looking at the link between obesity and surgery survival rates, it only looked at the survival rates of patients whilst they were still in hospital and cannot therefore be used to predict the long-term survival of surgery patients.

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