Background & aims: Current methods of predicting risk of postoperative mortality in patients with cirrhosis are suboptimal. The utility of the Model for End-stage Liver Disease (MELD) in predicting mortality after surgery other than liver transplantation is unknown. The aim of this study was to determine the risk factors for postoperative mortality in patients with cirrhosis.
Methods: Patients with cirrhosis (N = 772) who underwent major digestive (n = 586), orthopedic (n = 107), or cardiovascular (n = 79) surgery were studied. Control groups of patients with cirrhosis included 303 undergoing minor surgical procedures and 562 ambulatory patients. Univariate and multivariable proportional hazards analyses were used to determine the relationship between risk factors and mortality.
Results: Patients undergoing major surgery were at increased risk for mortality up to 90 days postoperatively. By multivariable analysis, only MELD score, American Society of Anesthesiologists class, and age predicted mortality at 30 and 90 days, 1 year, and long-term, independently of type or year of surgery. Emergency surgery was the only independent predictor of duration of hospitalization postoperatively. Thirty-day mortality ranged from 5.7% (MELD score, <8) to more than 50% (MELD score, >20). The relationship between MELD score and mortality persisted throughout the 20-year postoperative period.
Conclusions: MELD score, age, and American Society of Anesthesiologists class can quantify the risk of mortality postoperatively in patients with cirrhosis, independently of the procedure performed. These factors can be used in determining operative mortality risk and whether elective surgical procedures can be delayed until after liver transplantation.