Epidemiology and outcomes of obese critically ill patients in Australia and New Zealand

Paul Secombe, Richard Woodman, Sean Chan, David Pilcher, Frank van Haren

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13 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: The apparent survival benefit of being overweight or obese in critically ill patients (the obesity paradox) remains controversial. Our aim is to report on the epidemiology and outcomes of obesity within a large heterogenous critically ill adult population. DESIGN: Retrospective observational cohort study. SETTING: Intensive care units (ICUs) in Australia and New Zealand. PARTICIPANTS: Critically ill patients who had both height and weight recorded between 2010 and 2018.
OUTCOME MEASURES: Hospital mortality in each of five body mass index (BMI) strata. Subgroups analysed included diagnostic category, gender, age, ventilation status and length of stay. RESULTS: Data were available for 381 855 patients, 68% of whom were overweight or obese. Increasing level of obesity was associated with lower unadjusted hospital mortality: underweight (11.9%), normal weight (7.7%), overweight (6.4%), class I obesity (5.4%), and class II obesity (5.3%). After adjustment, mortality was lowest for patients with class I obesity (adjusted odds ratio, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.74– 0.82). Adverse outcomes with class II obesity were only seen in patients with cardiovascular and cardiac surgery ICU admission diagnoses, where mortality risk rose with progressively higher BMIs. CONCLUSION: We describe the epidemiology of obesity within a critically ill Australian and New Zealand population and confirm that some level of obesity is associated with lower mortality, both overall and across a range of diagnostic categories and important subgroups. Further research should focus on potential confounders such as nutritional status and the appropriateness of BMI in isolation as an anthropometric measure in critically ill patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-44
Number of pages10
JournalCritical Care and Resuscitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


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