After breast reconstruction, obese women have slightly higher risk of complications

Monday, December 26, 2011


After any major surgery, patients face a risk of post-operative complications. This likelihood may vary based on a patient's age, body type or lifestyle. For instance, a recently published study found that obese women may have a higher risk of complications following breast reconstruction.

Published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the report estimated that 18 percent of obese women who pursue breast surgery will experience complications, compared to 2 percent of women of a healthy weight.

Researchers found that among obese women who receive breast reconstructions, reductions or other procedures, some complications were much more likely than others. The most common was inflammation.

The team stated that obese patients are 20 times more likely than their peers to experience serious inflammation after breast surgery.

These figures were taken from insurance claims filed by 8,000 women over a four-year period. In all, 2,400 of these participants were listed as obese.

Being overweight is not the only factor that can increase a woman's likelihood of complications following a breast reconstruction. Susan G. Komen for the Cure notes that smoking increases the risk of post-operative problems, regardless of the type of reconstruction performed.

As a vasoconstrictor, nicotine reduces blood flow to the operation site, potentially impairing wound healing.

Doctors once thought that age affected the risk of complications, but a recent study published in the journal The American Surgeon determined that women over 60 generally tolerate breast reconstructions quite well.

So what are obese cancer survivors to do? They may consider losing weight, but only after talking to their healthcare provider.

As for the impact of obesity of post-reconstruction healing, the team emphasized a caveat. "While the effect of obesity on disease has been established, its impact on short-term surgical outcomes has not been quantified," lead author Catherine Lee Chen said, adding that more inquiry should be done into the matter.


Dallas ME. Obese Women Face Higher Complication Risk After Breast Surgery. HealthDay. November 2, 2011. Accessed December 14, 2011.

Preidt R. After Mastectomy, Breast Reconstruction Is Safe for Older Women. HealthDay. November 2, 2011. Accessed December 14, 2011.

Breast reconstruction. Susan G. Komen for the Cure. 2011. Accessed December 14, 2011.

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