Background: Obesity is generally considered a risk factor for postoperative morbidity following open gastrectomy. Body mass index (BMI) is widely accepted as an indicator of obesity, but does not necessarily reflect the distribution of fat. It is unclear how different types of fat may affect the operative procedure and outcome. Methods: The relationship between fat area (total, visceral and subcutaneous fat, and BMI) and early surgical outcomes (bleeding, operating time,morbidity, hospital death and hospital stay) was investigated in 135 patients who had a curative gastrectomy at the Cancer Institute Hospital, Tokyo, in 2006. Results: Postoperative intra-abdominal infection, which occurred in 13 patients (9.6 per cent), correlated strongly with visceral (P = 0.023) and total (P = 0.037) fat area. Visceral fat area also correlated with hospital death (P = 0.041) and a longer hospital stay (P = 0.001). Subcutaneous fat area and BMI did not correlate with these early surgical outcomes. Conclusion: Patients with a high visceral fat area are more likely to develop an intra-abdominal infection after gastrectomy. Assessment of fat area, in particular visceral fat area, should alert surgeons to increased postoperative risks.
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