[Perioperative risk and mortality after major surgery]

Anaesthesist. 2015 Nov;64(11):814-27. doi: 10.1007/s00101-015-0110-y.
[Article in German]


Although anesthesia-associated mortality has been significantly reduced down to 0.00068-0.00082% over the last decades, recent studies have revealed a high perioperative mortality of 0.8- 4%. Apart from anesthesia and surgery-induced major complications, perioperative mortality is primarily negatively influenced by individual patient comorbidities. These risk factors predispose for acute critical incidents (e.g., myocardial infarction); however, the majority of fatal complications are a result of slowly progressing conditions, particularly infections or the sequelae of systemic inflammation. This implicates a broad window of opportunity for the detection and treatment of slow-onset complications to improve the perioperative outcome. The term "failure to rescue" (FTR), i.e., the proportion of patients who die from major complications compared to the number of all patients with complications, has been introduced as a valid indicator for the quality of perioperative care. Growing evidence has already shown that FTR is an underestimated factor in perioperative medicine accounting for or at least being involved in the development of postoperative mortality. While the incidence of severe postoperative complications amazingly does not show much variation between hospitals, FTR shows significant differences implying a major potential for improvement. With 14 million surgical procedures per year in Germany, a postoperative mortality of approximately 1% and an avoidable FTR rate of 40% mean that there are an estimated 60,000 preventable deaths per year. Hence, in the future it will be imperative to (1) identify patients at risk, (2) to prevent the development of postoperative complications with the use of adequate adjunctive therapeutic strategies, (3) to establish surveillance and monitoring systems for the early detection of postoperative complications and (4) to treat postoperative complications efficiently and in time when they arise.

Keywords: Anesthesia-associated mortality; Failure to rescue; Perioperative mortality; Perioperative risk; Surgery.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia / adverse effects
  • Anesthesia / mortality
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Perioperative Period / mortality*
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / mortality*