November 08, 2019
2 min read

Elevated infection risk remains following treatment for obesity

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LAS VEGAS — Obesity is associated with an elevated risk for infection, but treating obesity with either standard medical therapies or bariatric surgery does not seem to mitigate that risk; prescriptions for antibiotics among those undergoing obesity treatment were approximately double those for people with normal weight, according to findings presented at ObesityWeek.

“The link between obesity and infection is well known; however, it’s not precisely defined,” Jens K. Hertel, PhD, head of research at the Morbid Obesity Centre of Vestfold Hospital Trust in Tonsberg, Norway, said during a presentation. “Infections might also follow after management of obesity like bariatric surgery and plastic surgery for skin removal. Infections of several organs and systems are more common in people with obesity than those of normal weight.”

Using data from the Norwegian Prescription Database, Hertel and colleagues evaluated the number of antibiotic prescriptions during a 10-year period for 1,995 adults (mean age, 43.2 years; 67% women; mean BMI, 44.2 kg/m2) who underwent bariatric surgery or received standard medical treatment for severe obesity. Among those who underwent bariatric surgery (n = 932; 47%), 45% of women and 37% of men had a prescription for antibiotics at baseline.

Among the entire cohort, the mean amount of antibiotics use did not differ based on treatment approach, and use of antibiotics for specific infections, such as urogenital infections in women or skin infections among all individuals, was also unaffected by the type of obesity treatment.

Among women in the entire cohort, use of antibiotics remained stable, but Hertel noted a small increase in use among those who received surgery, which equated to a 6% increase in the risk for antibiotics use vs. those who received standard medical treatment. Compared with the general population, women who received either obesity treatment had almost twice as many prescriptions for antibiotics, Hertel said.

Among men with obesity who were treated with either surgery or standard medical therapy, there was also no association between either technique and antibiotics use. However, Hertel noted, antibiotics use was generally similar when comparing those who received surgery with those who received standard medical treatment, and these rates were also roughly double those of the general population.

“The use of antibiotics did not decline after either medical or surgical treatment for obesity and the use of antibiotics increased among women after surgical treatment and patients with severe obesity used almost twice as much antibiotics,” Hertel said. – by Phil Neuffer


Hertel JK. T-OR-2035. Presented at: ObesityWeek 2019; Nov. 3-7, 2019; Las Vegas.

Disclosure: Endocrine Today could not confirm relevant financial disclosures at time of publication.