Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research: November 2016 - Volume 474 - Issue 11 - p 2472–2481 doi: 10.1007/s11999-016-5039-1 Basic Research

Surgical Risks and Costs of Care are Greater in Patients Who Are Super Obese and Undergoing THA

Meller, Menachem, M., MD, PhD1,a; Toossi, Nader, MD2; Gonzalez, Mark, H., MD, PhD3; Son, Min-Sun, PhD4; Lau, Edmund, C., MS5; Johanson, Norman, MD2

Background Patients with morbid obesity, defined as a BMI greater than 40 kg/m2, and super obesity, defined as a BMI greater than 50 kg/m2, increasingly present for total hip replacement. There is disagreement in the literature whether these individuals have greater surgical risks and costs for the episode of care, and the magnitude of those risks and costs. There also is no established threshold for obesity as defined by BMI in identifying increased complications, risks, and costs of care. Until recently, analysis of higher BMI data was limited to small cohorts from hospital-based data banks, based on BMI or height and weight only, often as part of a multivariate analysis. On October 1, 2010 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services added a fifth digit to the BMI data, V85.xx, in the Medicare data bank, which allowed data mining of cases of patients with higher BMI. To our knowledge, our study is the first large retrospective Medicare data mining study, which allows us to examine BMI levels greater than 40 and 50 kg/m2 to delineate risks, complications, and costs for these patients.


Questions/purposes We sought to quantify (1) the surgical risk, and (2) the costs associated with complications after THA in patients who were morbidly obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2) or super obese (BMI ≥ 50 kg/m2).


Methods This is a retrospective study of patients, using Medicare hospital claims data, who underwent THA. The ICD-9 Clinical Modification (CM) diagnosis code V85.4x was used to identify patients with morbid obesity and with super obesity from October 1, 2010 through December 31, 2014. Patients without any BMI-related diagnosis codes were used as the control group. Twelve complications occurring during the 90 days after THA were analyzed using multivariate Cox models adjusting for patient demographic, comorbidities, and institutional factors. In addition, hospital charges and payments were compared from primary surgery through the subsequent 90 days.


Results Patients with morbid obesity had increased postoperative complications including prosthetic joint infection (hazard ratio [HR], 3.71; 95% CI, 3.2-4.31; p < 0.001), revision (HR, 1.91; 95% CI, 1.69-2.16; p < 0.001), and wound dehiscence (HR, 3.91; 95% CI, 3.14-4.86; p < 0.001). In addition, patients with morbid obesity had increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (HR, 1.43; 95% CI, 1.14-1.79; p < 0.002), pulmonary embolism (HR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.25-1.99; p < 0.001), implant failure (HR, 1.48; 95% CI, 1.3-1.68; p < 0.001), acute renal failure (HR, 1.68; 95% CI, 1.56-1.80; p < 0.001), and all-cause readmission (HR, 1.48; 95% CI, 1.40-1.56; p < 0.001). However, death (HR, 0.94 95% CI, 0.73-1.19 p < 0.592), acute myocardial infarction (HR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.74-1.2 p < 0.631), and dislocation (HR 1.07; 95% CI, 0.85-1.34; p < 0.585) were not different between patients in the control and morbidly obese groups. Super obese patients had an increased risk of infection (HR, 6.48; 95% CI, 4.54-9.25; p < 0.001), wound dehiscence (HR, 9.81; 95% CI, 6.31-15.24; p < 0.001), and readmission (HR, 2.16; 95% CI, 1.84-2.54; p < 0.001) compared with patients with normal BMI. Controlling for patient and institutional factors, each THA had mean total hospital charges of USD 88,419 among patients who were super obese compared with USD 73,827 for the control group, a difference of USD 14,591. Medicare payment for the patients who were super obese also was higher, but only by USD 3631.


Conclusions Patients who are super obese are at increased risk for serious complications compared with patients with morbid obesity, whose risks are elevated relative to patients whose BMI is less than 40 kg/m2. Costs of care for patients who were super obese, likewise, were increased. We present BMI outcomes to allow an objective basis for patient counseling, risk stratification, maintaining access to orthopaedic surgical care, and maintaining hospital operating margins.


Level of Evidence Level III, therapeutic study.

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