Critical illnesses in patients with obesity present a unique set of challenges for interdisciplinary healthcare teams. The authors discuss the pathophysiological characteristics of these patients and offer recommendations for care management.

A total of 61% of adults in the United States are overweight or obese.1 During the past 2 decades, the prevalence of obesity in adults has nearly doubled, from 15% to an estimated 27%,1 leading former Surgeon General David Satcher to warn that “overweight and obesity may soon cause as much preventable disease and death as cigarette smoking.”2 

Obesity is a major public health challenge in terms of morbidity, mortality, diminished productivity, and expenditure of healthcare dollars. About 300000 deaths associated with obesity and overweight occur annually in the United States, at an estimated total cost of $117 billion in the year 2000.3 

The increase in the prevalence of obesity has prompted the development of...

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