Background: The relationship between body mass index (BMI) and development of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is unknown.
Methods: Cohort study of critically ill patients at risk for ARDS. BMI was calculated from admission height and weight. Patients were screened daily for AECC-defined ARDS and 60-day ARDS mortality.
Results: Of 1795 patients, 83 (5%) patients were underweight (BMI<18.5 kg/m2), 627 (35%) normal (BMI 18.5-24.9), 605 (34%) overweight (BMI 25-29.9), 364 (20%) obese (BMI 30-39.9) and 116 (6%) severely obese (BMI>=40)). Increasing weight was associated with younger age (p< 0.001), diabetes (p<0.0001), higher blood glucoses (p < 0.0001), lower prevalence of direct pulmonary injury (p<0.0001), and later development of ARDS (p=0.01). BMI was associated with ARDS on multivariate analysis (ORadj 1.24 per SD increase; 95% CI 1.11–1.39; ). Similarly, obesity was associated with ARDS compared to normal weight (ORadj 1.66; 95% CI 1.21-2.28 for obese; ORadj 1.78; 95% CI 1.12-2.92 for severely obese). Exploratory analysis in a subgroup of intubated patients without ARDS on admission (N=1045) found that obese patients received higher peak (p<0.0001) and positive end-expiratory pressures (p<0.0001) than non-obese patients. Among ARDS patients, increasing BMI was associated with increased length of stay (p=0.007) but not with mortality (ORadj 0.89 per SD increase; 95% CI 0.71 – 1.12).
Conclusion: BMI was associated with increased risk of ARDS in a weight dependent manner and increased length of stay but not mortality. Additional studies are needed to determine whether differences in initial ventilator settings may contribute to ARDS development in the obese.