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Acad Emerg Med. 2005 Aug;12(8):778-81.

Obese patients with abdominal pain presenting to the emergency department do not require more time or resources for evaluation than nonobese patients.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California San Francisco, Fresno, CA, USA.



The authors describe the evaluation of obese and nonobese adult patients with abdominal pain presenting to an emergency department (ED). The hypothesis was that more ED and hospital resources are used to evaluate and treat obese patients.


A prospective observational study of obese (n = 98; body mass index > or = 30 kg/m2) and nonobese (n = 176; body mass index < 30 kg/m2) adults presenting to the ED with abdominal pain was performed. ED length of stay (LOS) was the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included use of laboratory tests, computed tomography, and ultrasonography, and rates of consultations, operations, and admissions. ED diagnoses were compared between the two groups.


Obese patients were older (41.9 vs. 38.3 years; p = 0.027) and more often female (69% vs. 51%; p = 0.003) than nonobese patients. There were no significant differences between obese and nonobese patients in either the primary or the secondary outcome measures. Obese patients were similar to nonobese patients in regard to LOS (457 vs. 486 minutes), laboratory studies (3.2 vs. 2.9 tests), abdominopelvic computed tomographic scans (30% vs. 31%), and abdominal ultrasounds (16% vs. 13%). Obese and nonobese patients were also similar in their rates of consultations (27% vs. 31%), operations (14% vs. 12%), and admissions (18% vs. 24%). No difference was found for LOS between obese and nonobese patients as evaluated by the Wilcoxon rank-sum test (p = 0.81). Logistic regression analysis controlling for baseline characteristics revealed no significant differences between obese and nonobese patients for secondary outcome variables. ED diagnoses for obese and nonobese patients were similar except that genitourinary diagnoses were less common in obese patients (8% vs. 21%; p = 0.01).


In contradiction to the hypothesis, the results suggest that LOS and ED resource use in obese patients with abdominal pain are not increased when compared with nonobese patients.

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