Surgical risk factors, morbidity, and mortality in elderly patients

J Am Coll Surg. 2006 Dec;203(6):865-77. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2006.08.026.


Background: The aging population of the United States results in increasing numbers of surgical operations on elderly patients. This study observed aging related to morbidity, mortality, and their risk factors in patients undergoing major operations.

Study design: We reviewed our institution's American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database from February 24, 2002, through June 30, 2005, including standardized preoperative, intraoperative, and 30-day postoperative data points. This required review and analysis of the prospectively collected data. We examined patient demographics, preoperative risk factors, intraoperative risk factors, and 30-day outcomes with a focus on those aged 80 years and older.

Results: A total of 7,696 surgical procedures incurred a 28% morbidity rate and 2.3% mortality rate, although those older than 80 years of age had a morbidity of 51% and mortality of 7%. Hypertension and dyspnea were the most frequent risk factors in those aged 80 years and older. Preoperative transfusion, emergency operation, and weight loss best predicted morbidity for those 80 years of age and older. Operative duration predicted "other" postoperative occurrences and emergent case status predicted respiratory occurrences across all age groups. Preoperative impairment of activities of daily living, emergency operation, and increased American Society of Anesthesiology classification predicted mortality across all age groups. A 30-minute increment of operative duration increased the odds of mortality by 17% in patients older than 80 years. Postoperative morbidity and mortality increased progressively with increasing age. Age was statistically significantly associated with morbidity (wound, p = 0.021; renal, p = 0.001; cardiovascular, p = 0.0004; respiratory, p < 0.0001) and mortality (p = 0.001).

Conclusions: Although several risk factors for postoperative morbidity and mortality increase with age, increasing age itself remains an important risk factor for postoperative morbidity and mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dyspnea / complications
  • Emergency Treatment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / adverse effects
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / mortality*
  • Survival Rate