Obesity in Neurosurgery: A Narrative Review of the Literature

Mendel D. Castle-Kirszbaum, Jin W. Tee, Patrick Chan, Martin K. Hunn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Obesity is an important consideration in neurosurgical practice. Of Australian adults, 28.3% are obese and it is estimated that more than two thirds of Australia's population will be overweight or obese by 2025. This review of the effects of obesity on neurosurgical procedures shows that, in patients undergoing spinal surgery, an increased body mass index is a significant risk factor for surgical site infection, venous thromboembolism, major medical complications, prolonged length of surgery, and increased financial cost. Although outcome scores and levels of patient satisfaction are generally lower after spinal surgery in obese patients, obesity is not a barrier to deriving benefit from surgery and, when the natural history of conservative management is taken into account, the long-term benefits of surgery may be equivalent or even greater in obese patients than in nonobese patients. In cranial surgery, the impact of obesity on outcome and complication rates is generally lower. Specific exceptions are higher rates of distal catheter migration after shunt surgery and cerebrospinal fluid leak after posterior fossa surgery. Minimally invasive approaches show promise in mitigating some of the adverse effects of obesity in patients undergoing spine surgery but further studies are needed to develop strategies to reduce obesity-related surgical complications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)790-805
Number of pages16
JournalWorld Neurosurgery
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Body mass index
  • Complications
  • Neurosurgery
  • Obesity
  • Outcome
  • Spine

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