Preoperative Gender Differences in Pulmonary Gas Exchange in Morbidly Obese Subjects

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Morbidly obese men may have poorer pulmonary gas exchange compared to morbidly obese women (see Zavorsky et al., Chest 131:362-367, 2007). The purpose was to compare pulmonary gas exchange in morbidly obese men and women at rest and throughout exercise.


Twenty-five women (age = 38 ± 10 years, 164 ± 7 cm, body mass index or BMI = 51 ± 7 kg/m2, peak oxygen consumption or VO2peak = 2.0 ± 0.4 l/min) and 17 men (age = 43 ± 9 years, 178 ± 7 cm, BMI = 50 ± 10 kg/m2, VO2peak = 2.6 ± 0.8 l/min) were recruited to perform a graded exercise test on a cycle ergometer with temperature-corrected arterial blood-gas samples taken at rest and every minute of exercise, including peak exercise.


At rest, women were 98% predicted for pulmonary diffusion compared to 88% predicted in men. At rest, women had better pulmonary gas exchange compared to the men which was related to women having a lower waist-to-hip ratio (WHR; p < 0.01). Only 20% of the subjects had an excessive alveolar-to-arterial oxygen partial pressure difference (≥25 mmHg) at peak exercise, but 75% of the subjects showed inadequate compensatory hyperventilation at peak exercise (arterial carbon dioxide pressure >35 mmHg), and both were not different between genders.


At rest, morbidly obese men have poorer pulmonary gas exchange and pulmonary diffusion compared to morbidly obese women. The better gas exchange in women is related to the lower WHR in the women. During exercise, few subjects showed disturbances in pulmonary gas exchange despite demonstrating poor compensatory hyperventilation at peak exercise.

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