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Economies of scale: body mass index and costs of cardiac surgery in Ontario, Canada

Johnson AP, Parlow JL, Milne B, Whitehead M, Xu J, Rohland S, Thorpe JB. Eur J Health Econ. 2017; 18(4):471-9. Epub 2016 May 11.


An obesity paradox has been described, whereby obese patients have better health outcomes than normal weight patients in certain clinical situations, including cardiac surgery. However, the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and resource utilization and costs in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery is largely unknown. We examined resource utilization and cost data for 53,224 patients undergoing CABG in Ontario, Canada over a 10-year period between 2002 and 2011. Data for costs during hospital admission and for a 1-year follow-up period were derived from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, and analyzed according to pre-defined BMI categories using analysis of variance and multivariate models. BMI independently influenced healthcare costs. Underweight patients had the highest per patient costs ($50,124 ± $36,495), with the next highest costs incurred by morbidly obese ($43,770 ± $31,747) and normal weight patients ($42,564 ± $30,630). Obese and overweight patients had the lowest per patient costs ($40,760 ± $30,664 and $39,960 ± $25,422, respectively). Conversely, at the population level, overweight and obese patients were responsible for the highest total yearly population costs to the healthcare system ($92 million and $50 million, respectively, compared to $4.2 million for underweight patients). This is most likely due to the high proportion of CABG patients falling into the overweight and obese BMI groups. In the future, preoperative risk stratification and preparation based on BMI may assist in reducing surgical costs, and may inform health policy measures aimed at the management of weight extremes in the population.

Keywords: Surgery Health care costs Obesity

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