Pulmonary physiologic changes of morbid obesity

M S Biring, M I Lewis, J T Liu, Z Mohsenifar
American Journal of the Medical Sciences 1999, 318 (5): 293-7

OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to study the effects of extreme obesity on pulmonary function tests and the effects of smoking on these variables in a population group larger than has previously been reported.

DESIGN: Retrospective data analysis.

SETTING: Academic medical center.

PATIENTS: Forty-three patients with extreme obesity [ratio of weight in kilograms to height in centimeters greater than 0.9 (W/H)] who underwent pulmonary function testing at Cedars-Sinai on an out-patient or in-patient basis during the period of 1979 to 1 997.

MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS: Patients underwent standard pulmonary function testing. The patients were divided into 2 groups based on the W/H ratio: group A (0.9-0.99) and group B (greater than 1.0). Chart review was performed to identify pertinent history/co-morbidities. The independent effects of smoking between each group's patients were assessed. Forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), expiratory reserve volume (ERV), functional residual capacity (FRC), maximum voluntary ventilation (MVV), and forced expiratory flow during midexpiratory phase (FEF25-75%,) were significantly reduced in both groups. Single-breath diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO) and the volume of gas into which the single-breath of carbon monoxide and helium was diluted were not elevated. Smoking did not account for the results in group A but did seem to partially explain the decrease in FVC, FEV1, and FEF25-75% in group B.

CONCLUSIONS: Extreme obesity is associated with a reduction in ERV, FVC, FEV1, FRC, FEF25-75%, and MVV. However, contrary to prior reports, D(LCO) is not elevated. These effects are only partially explained by smoking.

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