Acute Kidney Injury After Major Surgery: A Retrospective Analysis of Veterans Health Administration Data

Am J Kidney Dis. 2016 Jun;67(6):872-80. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2015.07.022. Epub 2015 Sep 1.


Background: Few trials of acute kidney injury (AKI) prevention after surgery have been conducted, and most observational studies focus on AKI following cardiac surgery. The frequency of, risk factors for, and outcomes after AKI following other types of major surgery have not been well characterized and may present additional opportunities for trials in AKI.

Study design: Observational cohort study.

Setting & participants: 3.6 million US veterans followed up from 2004 to 2011 for the receipt of major surgery (cardiac; general; ear, nose, and throat; thoracic; vascular; urologic; and orthopedic) and postoperative outcomes.

Factors: Demographics, health characteristics, and type of surgery.

Outcomes: Postoperative AKI defined by the KDIGO creatinine criteria, postoperative length of stay, end-stage renal disease, and mortality.

Results: Postoperative AKI occurred in 11.8% of the 161,185 major surgery hospitalizations (stage 1, 76%; stage 2, 15%, stage 3 [without dialysis], 7%; and AKI requiring dialysis, 2%). Cardiac surgery had the highest postoperative AKI risk (relative risk [RR], 1.22; 95% CI, 1.17-1.27), followed by general (reference), thoracic (RR, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.87-0.98), orthopedic (RR, 0.70; 95% CI, 0.67-0.73), vascular (RR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.64-0.71), urologic (RR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.61-0.69), and ear, nose, and throat (RR, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.28-0.37) surgery. Risk factors for postoperative AKI included older age, African American race, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and, for estimated glomerular filtration rate < 90mL/min/1.73m(2), lower estimated glomerular filtration rate. Participants with postoperative AKI had longer lengths of stay (15.8 vs 8.6 days) and higher rates of 30-day hospital readmission (21% vs 13%), 1-year end-stage renal disease (0.94% vs 0.05%), and mortality (19% vs 8%), with similar associations by type of surgery and more severe stage of AKI relating to poorer outcomes.

Limitations: Urine output was not available to classify AKI; cohort included mostly men.

Conclusions: AKI was common after major surgery, with similar risk factor and outcome associations across surgery type. These results can inform the design of clinical trials in postoperative AKI to the noncardiac surgery setting.

Keywords: Acute kidney injury (AKI); KDIGO creatinine criteria; end-stage renal disease (ESRD); hospital length of stay; kidney function; mortality; postoperative AKI; surgery; surgical complication.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / epidemiology*
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Veterans Health*