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Percentage of Body Fat Better Indicator of Obesity, Predictor of Surgical Complications, ASPS Study Finds

SAN DIEGO -- Percentage of body fat may be a better indicator of obesity, and predictor of potential postoperative surgical complications, than the traditionally used body mass index (BMI), according to a new study being presented at Plastic Surgery The Meeting, the annual scientific meeting of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), Oct. 11-15, in San Diego. The study found that obesity, as measured by percentage of body fat, is significantly associated with increased surgical complications.

"Obesity, a disease currently on the rise in the United States, is a well-established risk factor for surgical complications," said Yoon Chun, MD, ASPS member surgeon and study lead author. "However, traditional BMI measurements do not assess body composition and fail to distinguish between body fat and other soft tissues – an important distinction when determining obesity."

A total of 438 patients, ages 18 to 64, who had elective surgery (cosmetic, general, orthopedic, etc.) were included in the study. Body fat percentage, measured by bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), was taken as part of the routine preoperative assessment. Obesity was defined as body fat levels greater or equal to 31 percent in women and 25 percent in men.

Overall, a total of 52 patients experienced complications. Patients who were defined as obese, using percentage of body fat, experienced a significantly higher rate of postoperative complications than those defined as non-obese (14.1% vs. 6.8%). When obesity was defined using BMI, there was no significant difference in complication rate between the obese and non-obese groups (14.9% vs. 10.2%).

"This study further demonstrates how board-certified plastic surgeons are continuing to investigate ways to ensure that the most appropriate patients are selected for plastic surgery and that they have safe and positive outcomes," said Dr. Chun. "It is our hope that this finding may ultimately help to better define obesity in potential patients and reduce their risk of post-op complications."

The study, "Percent Body Fat as a Risk Factor for Surgical Complications," is being presented Sunday, Oct. 13, at 10:20 a.m. at the San Diego Convention Center.

Reporters can register to attend Plastic Surgery The Meeting, or arrange interviews with presenters, by contacting ASPS Public Relations at (847) 228-9900, media@plasticsurgery.org or in San Diego, Oct. 11-15, at (619) 525-6330.

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