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Major report shows obese patients have double the risk of airway problems during an anaesthetic

30 March 2011

A major UK study, published in BJA today, on complications of anaesthesia has shown that obese patients are twice as likely to develop serious airway problems during a general anaesthetic than non-obese patients.

‘The airway’ means the air passages from the outside world to the lungs, which must be kept open to keep the patient alive. The study also shows that the use of a simple breathing monitor, called a capnograph, could significantly reduce deaths and brain damage from such problems in intensive care units (ICUs); it found that absence of a capnograph contributed to 74% of deaths from these events in ICUs during the study.


Read the papers:

Major complications of airway management in the UK: results of the Fourth National Audit Project of the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Difficult Airway Society. Part 1: Anaesthesia

Major complications of airway management in the UK: results of the Fourth National Audit Project of the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Difficult Airway Society. Part 2: intensive care and emergency departments

Published in BJA, Advance Access, 29 March 2011.

Read the press release from the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) here.



In the news

BBC - Lack of intensive care equipment 'causing deaths'

Daily Mail - Lack of cheap breathing monitors in intensive care is 'causing unnecessary deaths'

Bloomberg Business Week - Obesity Could Raise Risks of General Anesthesia