Background: Emergency major gastrointestinal (GI) surgery carries a considerable risk of mortality and postoperative complications. Effective management of complications and appropriate organization of postoperative care may improve outcome. The importance of the latter is poorly described in emergency GI surgical patients. We aimed to present mortality data and evaluate the postoperative care pathways used after emergency GI surgery.
Methods: A population-based cohort study with prospectively collected data from six Capital Region hospitals in Denmark. We included 2904 patients undergoing major GI laparotomy or laparoscopy surgery between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2010. The primary outcome measure was 30 day mortality.
Results: A total of 538 patients [18.5%, 95% confidence interval (CI): 17.1-19.9] died within 30 days of surgery. In all, 84.2% of the patients were treated after operation in the standard ward, with a 30 day mortality of 14.3%, and 4.8% were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) after a median stay of 2 days (inter-quartile range: 1-6). When compared with 'admission to standard ward', 'admission to standard ward before ICU admission' and 'ICU admission after surgery' were independently associated with 30 day mortality; odds ratio 5.45 (95% CI: 3.48-8.56) and 3.27 (95% CI: 2.45-4.36), respectively.
Conclusions: Mortality in emergency major GI surgical patients remains high. Failure to allocate patients to the appropriate level of care immediately after surgery may contribute to the high postoperative mortality. Future research should focus on improving risk stratification and evaluating the effect of different postoperative care pathways in emergency GI surgery.
Keywords: emergency; general surgery; laparotomy; mortality; postoperative care.