FRIDAY, Sept. 9, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- For almost 80 years, doctors have suspected that obesity is a risk factor for a fatal pulmonary embolism, a sudden blockage in a lung artery that is usually due to a blood clot traveling to the lung from the leg.
Now, an extensive review of hospital patient records shows that obesity is indeed a risk factor for venous thromboembolic disease in men as well as women, particularly those under age 40, a new study reports.
Researchers analyzed more than 20 years of patient records compiled by the National Hospital Discharge Survey to investigate the potential connection between obesity and thromboembolism. The study is timely given the high percentage of overweight Americans, the scientists said.
They found that the relative risk of pulmonary embolism (PE), comparing obese patients with non-obese patients, was 2.21. Obesity had the greatest impact on patients under 40 years, in whom the relative risk for PE was 5.19, the study found.
The study appears in the September issue of the American Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Paul D. Stein, a cardiologist at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital, in Pontiac, Mich., writes in a prepared statement: "Now that we know with certainty that obesity is a risk factor for PE, particularly in men and women under age 40, the presence of obesity may alert physicians to a possibility of the diagnosis. The diagnosis of PE is frequently missed, even though PE is the third most common acute cardiovascular disease after myocardial infarction and stroke."
The study was conducted by researchers from St. Joseph Mercy as well as Wayne State University in Detroit and Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.
For more on pulmonary embolism, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.