Obesity strongly associated with post-cesarean infection

August 10, 2012

Risk of surgical site infection after cesarean section (C/S) is increased in women who are overweight, according to a study released online by BJOG.

  • Post-delivery risk 1.6 times higher in overweight vs normal weight women

  • Obesity increases risk of infection 2.4 times

  • Association also seen between postsurgical risk, youth

Risk of surgical site infection after cesarean section (C/S) is increased in women who are overweight, according to a study released online by BJOG.

Researchers analyzed outcomes of 4,107 operations at 14 hospitals in England. Women were followed during their inpatient stays, upon hospital readmission or other hospital visits, by community midwives, and through a self-administered questionnaire. A total of 394 surgical site infections in the first 30 days post-surgery were identified, for an overall risk of 9.6%. Of them, 348 (88.3%) were superficial, 19 (4.8%) involved deeper tissues, and 27 (6.9%) caused organ/space infections, such as endometritis and reproductive tract infections.

After adjusting for other risk factors, researchers found that obesity was strongly associated with development of infection. Risk of infection was 1.6 times greater in overweight women (BMI 25 to 30) than in those of normal weight women (BMI 18.5-25). Obesity (BMI >30) increased risk even higher, by 2.4 times.

Age also affected risk of post-C/S infection, with women younger than age 20 having a risk 1.9 times greater than those aged 25 to 30, after adjustment for other factors.

The study’s lead author noted that although many post-C/S infections are not serious, they can cause pain and discomfort. More serious infections requiring extended hospital stays or readmission may impact women’s quality of life and place a burden on the health system.

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