Obese Patients Lived Longer After Sepsis

Obesity appeared protective after hospitalization for sepsis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Being obese is associated with having health issues, which can include sepsis. But obese patients may have better recovery rates from sepsis than normal-weight or overweight patients, new research suggests.

People recovering from sepsis — a life-threatening response to infection — were more likely to still be alive a year after being released from the hospital if they were obese, rather than overweight or normal weight.

"Seek medical care if you think you have sepsis."

The research was conducted by Hallie Prescott, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues.

The researchers identified 1,404 people who were hospitalized for sepsis between 1999 and 2005 and were part of the Health and Retirement Study. All were Medicare patients, and anyone who was underweight was excluded from the study.

The researchers looked at the costs of these patients, including for time in the hospital, health care needs after leaving the hospital and deaths one year after being released. They used the National Death Index to determine deaths.

The authors studied 597 normal-weight people, 473 people who were overweight, and 334 obese or severely obese people.

One year after hospitalization, 62 percent of the normal-weight patients and 53.1 percent of the overweight people had died. However, only 46 percent of the obese and 44.7 percent of the severely obese patients had died, the study authors noted.

Age did not appear to affect the results, the researchers noted.

The study also showed that the obese patients did not have more new limitations in functioning after their hospitalization, compared to normal-weight patients. However, because they lived longer, obese sepsis patients used more health care and cost Medicare more in the year after their hospitalization than other patients.

The authors of the study noted that one study limitation was that patients self-reported their weight and height.

The study authors suggested that obese patients may have fared better for a number of reasons, including a potentially true protective effect of excess body weight.

"Physicians expect obese patients to do poorly and this belief can affect the care and counseling they provide to patients and their families," Dr. Prescott said in a press release. "Our study indicates obese sepsis patients actually have lower mortality and similar functional outcomes as normal weight patients."

This study appeared in the August issue of Critical Care Medicine.

James O’Brien Jr, MS, MD, one of the co-authors of the study, disclosed that he lectured for Siemens and GE, consulted for Ortho Clinical Diagnostics and received support for travel from Wolters Kluwer.

Review Date: 
August 6, 2014
Last Updated:
August 8, 2014