Systemic inflammation worsens outcomes in emergency surgical patients

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2012 May;72(5):1140-9. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182516a97.


Background: Acute care surgeons are uniquely aware of the importance of systemic inflammatory response and its influence on postoperative outcomes; concepts like damage control have evolved from this experience. For surgeons whose practice is mostly elective, the significance of such systemic inflammation may be underappreciated. This study sought to determine the influence of preoperative systemic inflammation on postoperative outcome in patients requiring emergent colon surgery.

Methods: Emergent colorectal operations were identified in the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program 2008 dataset. Four groups were defined by the presence and magnitude of the inflammatory response before operation: no inflammation, systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), sepsis, or severe sepsis/septic shock. Thirty-day survival was analyzed by Kaplan-Meier method.

Results: A total of 3,305 patients were identified. Thirty-day survival was significantly different (p < 0.0001) among the four groups; increasing magnitudes of preoperative inflammation had increasing probability of mortality (p < 0.0001). Hazard ratios indicated that, compared with patients without preoperative systemic inflammation, the relative risk of death from SIRS was 1.9 (p < 0.0001), from sepsis was 2.5 (p < 0.0001), and from severe sepsis/septic shock was 6.7 (p < 0.0001). Operative time of <150 minutes was associated with decreased risk of morbidity (odds ratio = 0.64; p < 0.0001).

Conclusions: Upregulation of the systemic inflammatory response is the primary contributor to death in emergency surgical patients. In SIRS or sepsis patients, operations <2.5 hours are associated with fewer postoperative complications. These results further reinforce the concept of timely surgical intervention and suggest a potential role for damage control operations in emergency general surgery.

Level of evidence: II, prognostic study.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Disease Progression
  • Emergencies*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survival Rate / trends
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / etiology*
  • United States / epidemiology