SAN ANTONIO—Patients with pulmonary embolism (PE) have a lower mortality risk if they are obese, according to a retrospective analysis of nearly 2 million PE discharges.
The obese patients had a lower mortality risk despite receiving more thrombolytics and mechanical intubation, said study investigator Zubair Khan, MD, of the University of Toledo Medical Center in Ohio.
“Surprisingly, the mortality of PE was significantly less in obese patients,” Dr. Khan said. “When we initiated the study, we did not expect this result.”
Dr. Khan discussed this result in a presentation at CHEST 2018.
Dr. Khan noted that the association between obesity and lower mortality, sometimes called the “obesity paradox,” has been observed in studies of other chronic health conditions, including stable heart failure, coronary artery disease, unstable angina, myocardial infarction, and also in some PE studies.
His team’s study, conducted using the National Inpatient Sample database, included adults with a primary discharge diagnosis of PE between 2002 and 2014. The researchers included 1,959,018 PE discharges, of which 312,770 (16%) had an underlying obesity diagnosis.
Obese PE patients had more risk factors and more severe disease but an overall mortality of 2.2%, compared with 3.7% in PE patients without obesity (P<0.001), Dr. Khan reported.
Hypertension was significantly more prevalent in the obese PE patients (65% vs. 50.5%; P<0.001), as was chronic lung disease and chronic liver disease.
Obese patients more often received thrombolytics (3.6% vs. 1.9%; P<0.001) and mechanical ventilation (5.8% vs. 4%; P<0.001), and they more frequently had cardiogenic shock (0.65% vs. 0.45%; P<0.001).
The obese PE patients were more often female, black, and younger than 65 years of age.
Notably, the prevalence of obesity in PE patients more than doubled over the course of the study period, from 10.2% in 2002 to 22.6% in 2014.
The lower mortality in obese patients might be explained by increased levels of endocannabinoids, which have shown protective effects in rat and mouse studies, Dr. Khan said.
“I think it’s a rich area for more and further research, especially in basic science,” he added.
Dr. Khan and his coauthors said they had no relationships relevant to the study.