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The Baltimore Sun

Obesity leads to more plastic surgery complications

Here's yet another reason to drop those extra pounds.

If you ever decide to have plastic surgery, you're more likely to have complications.

Obese patients are nearly 12 times more likely to suffer a complication following elective plastic surgery than those who are of normal weight, according to new research by Johns Hopkins scientists.

“Our data demonstrate that obesity is a major risk factor for complications following certain kinds of elective surgery,” Marty Makary, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study said in a statement.

The study was published online in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

The scientists said physicians should pay special attention to possible infections in heavier patients after surgery. The data should also open the eyes of policymakers and insurers who may penalize doctors who patients get infections and are readmitted to the hospital, the researchers argue. They should take into account heavier patients may more likely end back up in the hospital for complications.

"Policymakers need to make sure they aren’t giving physicians financial incentives to discriminate on the basis of weight,” Makary said.

Thirty-four percent of adults in the United States are obese, compared to 15 percent a decade ago. The number of people having plastic surgery has also increased 725 percent between 1992 and 2005.

Hospitals are often penalized for complications that arise from plastic surgery. Makary said he fears some surgeons avoid taking obese patients because “it’s more work, and it’s a more complex surgery as opposed to operating on a thin patient. And the payment is the same."

“There are definitely incentives there for surgeons and institutions to select healthier patients,” he said “They’re getting reimbursed less per unit of work for obese patients.”

Other Hopkins researchers involved in the study include :Andrew D. Shore, Roger Johns, Jeanne M. Clark and Michele Manahan.

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