Recording and classification of complications in a surgical practice

Eur J Surg. 1999 May;165(5):421-4; discussion 425. doi: 10.1080/110241599750006622.


Objective: To document the incidence and outcome of complications in the department of surgery.

Design: Retrospective study.

Setting: District hospital, The Netherlands.

Subjects: 7455 patients operated on between 1 January 1993 and 31 December 1995.

Main outcome measures: Documentation and outcome of complications (defined as "every unwanted development in the illness of the patient or in the treatment of the patient's illness that occurs in the clinic").

Results: 1078 complications were recorded after 8130 operations (13%), 337 (33%) of which had no long term effects. 175/1078 (16%) required reoperation, and in 134 of these (77%) an error in management or surgical technique was responsible for the complication. 6 patients were irreversibly harmed and of the 141 patients who died, 11 had evidence of some sort of error.

Conclusions: Audit of complications is necessary to improve practice in a surgical department, and weekly morbidity and mortality meetings are a good opportunity for learning about them.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / classification
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality
  • Retrospective Studies