There was a very popular television series that appeared from 1979-1988 called The Facts Of Life. As I progress through a long career in medicine one of the “Facts of Life” that becomes apparent: Pretty much every one of us has undergone or will undergo one or more surgeries. These may range from very minor, non-threatening procedures such as skin cancer removals, arthroscopy knee surgery or a routine hernia repair to much more complicated/dangerous surgeries such as coronary artery bypass grafting, internal organ cancer removal or brain surgery. Rare is the person that will not have a surgical procedure(s) performed during their lifetimes.
Post-operative recovery is very much impacted by the patient’s weight situation heading into the surgery. Here are several post-operative complications that are seen with much higher frequency in people that are overweight/obese:
- Heart attack (5x non-obese rate)
- Peripheral nerve injury (4x)
- Wound infection (1.7x)
- Urinary tract infection (1.5x)
- Deep venous thrombosis
- Delayed wound healing
- Pulmonary embolus
Focusing specifically on orthopedic surgeries involving the weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips and ankles, losing weight before the surgery will be very beneficial in the post-operative recovery and rehabilitation. For every pound lost there are four pounds of pressure taken off of the weight-bearing joints and this can produce a huge difference in post-op recovery.
The bottom line: Very few of us will avoid a surgery(s) in the future. Controlling weight now will help post-operative recovery and lessen the suffering/pain that usually accompanies surgery and the post-op period. Yet another reason to take weight control efforts seriously.