FRIDAY, Oct. 2, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Obese and overweight people who have joint replacement surgeries are less likely to need blood transfusions and are no more likely to face complications than normal weight patients, a new analysis finds.
“It’s a very complex issue,” said study co-author Dr. Nolan Wessell, an orthopaedic surgery resident at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. “And this finding is somewhat surprising.
“But it could just be that larger patients have a larger total blood value,” he added. “And therefore lose a lower percentage of their blood than smaller patients during surgery. Essentially, it may be that they have a larger reserve in their tank, and can afford to lose a bit more blood without needing a transfusion. We don’t know. But at least conceptually that makes sense.”
Still, senior study author Dr. Craig Silverton, vice chairman of orthopaedics at Henry Ford, cautioned that more research will be needed to confirm the findings, given that they “contradict what we have always recognized as a significant risk factor for complications and transfusion.”
Silverton, Wessell and their colleagues presented the findings Thursday at a meeting of the International Society for Technology in Arthroplasty, in Vienna, Austria. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
And as excess poundage increases the risk for joint problems, a large percentage of hip and knee surgery patients are overweight or obese, the researchers said.
During surgery, one overriding goal is to keep blood loss in check, to eliminate the need for a blood transfusion, they added.
Why? Transfusions have long been associated with a higher risk for infection, immune system problems, prolonged hospitalization and/or death. In fact, one-fifth of all blood transfusion patients (regardless of the surgery at hand) suffer some type of adverse reaction, the researchers said.
The good news: the majority of hip and knee surgery patients will never end up needing a transfusion. Silverton pointed out that “transfusions are much less common today than they were 20 years back. And ideally, eventually, no one would ever get a blood transfusion. That’s where we think we’re heading.”