Obesity Increases Hospital Costs

Obese patients have higher risk of costly surgical-site infections

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Obesity is an epidemic that has spread throughout the world. It increases risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and many other diseases, and now it is even increasing hospital costs.

More than a third of the United States adult population is now considered to be obese. Researchers found that obese individuals who undergo surgery have an increased risk for surgical-site infections.

"Being obese increases your risk for several diseases."

Elizabeth C. Wick, M.D, from John Hopkins collected data from different insurance plans to obtain information on total or partial colon removal surgeries. Wick and colleagues found that obesity was a leading risk factor for getting surgical-site infections, and these patients also had longer hospital stays, which overall was more costly.

The average colon surgery cost for obese patients was about $300 more than for a normal-weight patient. Caring for patients with infections cost on average $32,182 in comparison with $15,131 for patient who did not get infections.

The average stay for patients with infections was more than their counterparts and readmission was 3 times more likely in patients that had infections. Obesity increases costs on average about $17,000.

This research indicates that physicians and care takers require information on how to better care for obese patients to minimize the cost for both parties.

This research also identifies future problems because hospitals that are punished for surgical-site infections may refuse to treat or operate on obese patients therefore lowering the number of reportable infections.

The Study

  • Analyzed claims from 8 different Blue Cross and Blue Shield Insurance between 2002-2008; adults ages 18-64
  • 7,020 patients; 1,243 obese patients
  • Calculated total costs from 30-day infection rates claims and 90 days following surgery
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Review Date: 
May 18, 2011
Last Updated:
May 20, 2011