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Anesthesiology Research and Practice
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 154208, 7 pages
Review Article

Lung Physiology and Obesity: Anesthetic Implications for Thoracic Procedures

Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, Rm M301, New York, NY 10065, USA

Received 27 July 2011; Revised 20 November 2011; Accepted 21 November 2011

Academic Editor: Javier Campos

Copyright © 2012 Alessia Pedoto. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Obesity is a worldwide health problem affecting 34% of the American population. As a result, more patients requiring anesthesia for thoracic surgery will be overweight or obese. Changes in static and dynamic respiratory mechanics, upper airway anatomy, as well as multiple preoperative comorbidities and altered drug metabolism, characterize obese patients and affect the anesthetic plan at multiple levels. During the preoperative evaluation, patients should be assessed to identify who is at risk for difficult ventilation and intubation, and postoperative complications. The analgesia plan should be executed starting in the preoperative area, to increase the success of extubation at the end of the case and prevent reintubation. Intraoperative ventilatory settings should be customized to the changes in respiratory mechanics for the specific patient and procedure, to minimize the risk of lung damage. Several non invasive ventilatory modalities are available to increase the success rate of extubation at the end of the case and to prevent reintubation. The goal of this review is to evaluate the physiological and anatomical changes associated with obesity and how they affect the multiple components of the anesthetic management for thoracic procedures.