Obstetric anesthesia for the obese and morbidly obese patient: An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of treatment

Mieke A. Soens, David J. Birnbach, Jayanthie S. Ranasinghe, André Van Zundert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Background: The incidence of obesity has been dramatically increasing across the globe. Anesthesiologists, are increasingly faced with the care for these patients. Obesity in the pregnant woman is associated with a broad spectrum of problems, including dramatically increased risk for cesarean delivery, diabetes, hypertension and pre-eclampsia. A thorough understanding of the physiology, associated conditions and morbidity, available options for anesthesia and possible complications is therefore important for today's anesthesiologist. Methods: This is a personal review in which different aspects of obesity in the pregnant woman, that are relevant to the anesthesiologist, are discussed. An overview of maternal and fetal morbidity and physiologic changes associated with pregnancy and obesity is provided and different options for labor analgesia, the anesthetic management for cesarean delivery and potential post-partum complications are discussed in detail. Results and conclusion: The anesthetic management of the morbidly obese parturient is associated with special hazards. The risk for difficult or failed intubation is exceedingly high. The early placement of an epidural or intrathecal catheter may overcome the need for general anesthesia, however, the high initial failure rate necessitates critical block assessment and catheter replacement when indicated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-19
Number of pages14
JournalActa Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Analgesia
  • Anesthesia
  • Cesarean
  • Labor
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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