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Obesity is extremely prevalent in our society today. According to an October 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates in America have reached a record high with close to 40 percent of adults and 20 percent of adolescents being obese. These high rates of obesity bring about higher risks of injuries and treatment costs.

Dr. Joey Johnson and Dr. Christopher Born of Brown University conducted a study in which they analyzed the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a record of inpatient data. They concluded that as obesity rates go up, knee dislocation rates go up as well. Typically, knee dislocations occur during high-energy impacts caused by, for example, car accidents or contact sports. However, Johnson and Born observed that with obese people, knee dislocations were occurring with low-energy impacts such as stepping down from a ladder. A possible reason may be due to the increased weight obese people carry, which places an increased pressure on their lower extremities, magnifying their risk for injury.

An activity as common as using a ladder can cause knee dislocations, especially in obese people.

Source: Hill Street Studios

In addition to knee dislocations, Johnson and Born discovered that with obese people, vascular injuries accompanied knee injuries at double the rate compared to with non-obese people. In other words, after suffering the knee dislocation, there was a higher risk of injury to the main artery supplying the knee with blood. This type of vascular injury is very severe if left untreated; the person could lose their leg because the blood supply is interrupted. The patients with vascular injuries also stayed in the hospital on average for 15 days, twice as long as patients without vascular injuries. Because the patients were staying in the hospital longer, they were incurring higher costs, for example, $130,000 versus $60,000.

The take-home message is that obese people have to be extra careful when it comes to injuries. Given that they are at a higher risk for knee and vascular injuries, they should be vigilant in the activities they engage in and acutely aware of any pain they may experience. But all the pressure does not fall on the patient; their physicians also have to be on the lookout for the symptoms and risk factors of obesity.

Feature Image Source: “Right Foot Forward”..bySandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose Follow

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