WEDNESDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Obese women who undergo elective breast surgery, such as a breast reduction or reconstruction, are nearly 12 times more likely than non-obese women to have complications following their operation, according to a new study.

In light of their findings, Johns Hopkins researchers said that obesity should be taken into account when assessing a patient's surgical risk.

After analyzing the insurance claims of about 8,000 women undergoing elective breast surgery over the course of four years, the researchers found that about 30 percent, or 2,400 women, were obese. The investigators compared the procedures and the complications of the obese women with those of the women who were not obese. The results are published in the November issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Roughly 18 percent of the obese women filed an insurance claim covering a complication from breast surgery, compared to 2 percent of the women who were not obese, the research showed. After taking other contributing factors into account, the risk for complications was 11.8 times higher for the obese women, according to a news release from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Most notably, obese women were more than 20 times as likely to experience inflammation as other women. The obese women were also at greater risk for infection, pain and fluid collections (seroma or hematoma) following their surgery, according to Dr. Catherine Lee Chen and colleagues.

The researchers pointed out that the study did not include procedures not covered by health insurance, such as breast augmentation and other aesthetic plastic surgeries. They said, however, that their findings should have implications for measuring surgical risk.

"While the effect of obesity on disease has been established, its impact on short-term surgical outcomes has not been quantified," Chen and colleagues pointed out in the news release. "As quality measures are increasingly applied to surgical evaluation and reimbursement, appropriate risk adjustment to account for the effect of obesity on outcomes will be essential."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on plastic surgery.