“We have an epidemic with obesity in the southern United States,” [Dr Leonardo] Seoane says. “Treating obese patients in the ICU is not new to us, so when we first started to get inundated with severely infected COVID patients ending up in the ICU, it didn’t necessarily raise an alarm for us because we typically take care of many obese patients in the ICU,” he explains. “In time, we started to realize this was different, though, as it became clear that the majority of the younger people in the ICU with coronavirus were obese.”
That inspired Seoane and the Ochsner Center for Outcomes and Health Services Research team to gather data. They studied 3,000 patients who tested positive for the coronavirus in his hospital system and found that 59% of the hospitalized patients were obese with an average BMI of 33. He says obesity nearly doubled the chances that patients with COVID-19 would end up in the ICU.