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Respiratory function in the morbidly obese before and after weight loss.
  1. P S Thomas,
  2. E R Cowen,
  3. G Hulands,
  4. J S Milledge
  1. Department of Respiratory Medicine, Northwick Park Hospital Harrow.


    The morbidly obese are known to have impaired respiratory function. A prospective study of the changes in lung volumes, carbon monoxide transfer, and arterial blood gas tensions was undertaken in 29 morbidly obese patients before and after surgery to induce weight loss. Before surgery the predominant abnormality in respiratory function was a reduction in lung volumes. These increased towards normal predicted values after weight loss, with significant increases in functional residual capacity, residual volume, total lung capacity, and expiratory reserve volume. The increases ranged from 14% for total lung capacity to 54% for expiratory reserve volume. After weight loss had been induced the smokers showed mild hyperinflation and air trapping. Resting arterial blood gas tensions improved, with a rise in arterial oxygen tension from 10.63 to 13.02 kPa and a fall in arterial carbon dioxide tension from 5.20 to 4.64 kPa. There was no correlation between weight loss and the changes in blood gas tensions or lung volumes. Loss of weight in the morbidly obese is thus associated with improved lung function. The effects of smoking on lung function could be detected after weight loss, but were masked before treatment by the opposing effects of obesity on residual volume and functional residual capacity.

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