Relationship of body mass index to subsequent mortality among seriously ill hospitalized patients

Anthony N. Galanos, Carl F. Pieper, Peter S. Kussin, Maria T. Winchell, William J. Fulkerson, Frank E. Harrell, Joan M. Teno, Peter Layde, Alfred F. Connors, Russell S. Phillips, Neil S. Wenger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine if body mass Index (BMI = weight [kg]/height [m]2), predictive of mortality in longitudinal epidemiologic studies, was also predictive of mortality in a sample of seriously ill hospitalized subjects. Design: Prospective, multicenter study. Setting: Five tertiary care medical centers in the United States. Patients: Patients ≤18 yrs of age who had one of nine illnesses of sufficient severity to anticipate a 6-month mortality rate of 50% were enrolled at five participating sites in the Study to Understand Prognoses and Preferences for Outcomes and Risks of Treatments (SUPPORT). Interventions: None. Measurements and Main Results: Patients were asked their current height and weight as part of the demographic data. Stratifying body mass index by percentile rank (≤15, 15 to 85, and ≤85th percentiles), risk ratios for mortality were calculated by Cox Proportional Hazards using the 15th to 85th percentile of body mass index as the reference group while controlling for multiple variables such as prior weight loss, albumin, and Acute Physiology Score. A body mass index in the ≤15th percentile was associated with an excess risk of mortality (risk ratio = 1.23; p< .001) within 6 months. High body mass index (≤85th percentile) was not significantly related to risk of mortality. Conclusions: Body mass index, a simple anthropometric measure of nutrition employed in community epidemiologic studies, has now been demonstrated to he a predictor of mortality in an acutely ill population of adults at five different tertiary centers. Even when controlling for multiple disease states and physiologic variables and removing from the analysis all patients with significant prior weight loss, a body mass index below the 15th percentile remained a significant and independent predictor of mortality. Examination of patient vs. proxy data did not change the results. Future studies examining variables predictive of mortality should include body mass index, even in acutely ill populations with a poor probability of survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1962-1968
Number of pages7
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Body mass index
  • Hospitalized
  • Prediction of mortality
  • Severely ill adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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