Breast Surgery Complications More Common in Obese Patients

breast surgery complicationsObese patients are almost 12 times more likely to experience breast surgery complications compared to non-obese patients, according to new research.

Johns Hopkins University researchers reviewed insurance claims of 2,403 obese patients and 5,597 normal weight patients who had breast procedures, including breast lifts, breast reductions and breast augmentations, between 2002 and 2006.

Just over 18 percent of the obese group had at least one complication within 30 days of surgery, compared to only 2.2 percent of non-obese patients.

The study found that obese patients were 22 times more likely to have inflammation; 13 times more likely to develop infection; and 11 times more likely to experience pain.

Breast reduction was the most common procedure for patients in the study, accounting for 80.7% of surgeries in the obese group and 63.8% in the non-obese group. Next was breast reconstruction, followed by breast augmentation and breast lift.

Individual breast procedures all had higher complication rates for obese patients, and complications were most common with breast augmentation among obese patients, with half of obese patients experiencing complications.

Complication rates for each breast surgery are as follows:

  • Breast augmentation – 50.5% among obese and 4.4% among non-obese
  • Breast lift – 24.1% among obese and 11.4% among non-obese
  • Breast lift with augmentation – 38.9% among obese and 5.6% among non-obese
  • Breast reconstruction – 29.4% among obese and 1.8% among non-obese
  • Breast reduction – 14.6% among obese and 1.7% among non-obese

Based on their findings, the researchers recommended that patients should be informed about the risk of obesity prior to breast surgery procedures.

The reasons for the higher risk of complications with obesity, according to the authors, may be greater space for infection to set in from larger surgical wounds and slower healing due to poorer blood flow in fat tissue than in other types of tissue.