Evaluation of POSSUM and P-POSSUM scoring systems in patients undergoing colorectal surgery

Br J Surg. 2003 Mar;90(3):340-5. doi: 10.1002/bjs.4037.


Background: The Physiological and Operative Severity Score for the enUmeration of Mortality and morbidity (POSSUM) and Portsmouth POSSUM (P-POSSUM) equations were derived from a heterogeneous general surgical population and have been used successfully as audit tools to provide risk-adjusted operative mortality rates. Their applicability to high-risk emergency colorectal operations has not been established.

Methods: POSSUM variables were recorded for 1017 patients undergoing major elective (n = 804) or emergency (n = 213) colorectal surgery in ten hospitals. Subgroup analysis was performed to investigate the predictive capability of POSSUM and P-POSSUM in emergency and elective surgery and in patients in different age groups.

Results: The overall operative mortality rate was 7.5 per cent (POSSUM-estimated mortality rate 8.2 per cent; P-POSSUM-estimated mortality rate 7.1 per cent). In-hospital deaths increased exponentially with age. Both scoring systems overpredicted mortality in young patients and underpredicted mortality in the elderly (P < 0.001). Death was underpredicted by both systems for emergency cases, significantly so at a simulated emergency caseload of 47.9 per cent (P < 0.05).

Conclusion: There is a lack of calibration of POSSUM and P-POSSUM systems at the extremes of age and high emergency workload. This has important implication in clinical practice, as consultants with a high emergency workload may seem to underperform when these scoring systems are applied. Recalibration or remodelling strategies may facilitate the application of POSSUM-based systems in colorectal surgery.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Colorectal Surgery / mortality*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index*