Prevalence of multimorbidity and its association with outcomes in older emergency general surgical patients: an observational study

BMJ Open. 2016 Mar 31;6(3):e010126. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010126.


Objectives: Multimorbidity is the presence of 2 or more medical conditions. This increasingly used assessment has not been assessed in a surgical population. The objectives of this study were to assess the prevalence of multimorbidity and its association with common outcome measures.

Design: A cross-sectional observational study.

Setting: A UK-based multicentre study, included participants between July and October 2014.

Participants: Consecutive emergency (non-elective) general surgical patients admitted to hospital, aged over 65 years.

Outcome measures: The outcome measures were (1) the prevalence of multimorbidity and (2) the association between multimorbidity and frailty; the rate and severity of surgery; length of hospital stay; readmission to hospital within 30 days of discharge; and death at 30 and 90 days.

Results: Data were collected on 413 participants aged 65-98 years (median 77 years, (IQR (70-84)). 51.6% (212/413) participants were women. Multimorbidity was present in 74% (95% CI 69.7% to 78.2%) of the population and increased with age (p<0.0001). Multimorbidity was associated with increasing frailty (p for trend <0.0001). People with multimorbidity underwent surgery as often as those without multimorbidity, including major surgery (p=0.03). When comparing multimorbid people with those without multimorbidity, we found no association between length of hospital stay (median 5 days, IQR (1-54), vs 6 days (1-47), (p=0.66)), readmission to hospital (64 (21.1%) vs 18 (16.8%) (p=0.35)), death at 30 days (14 (4.6%) vs 6 (5.6%) (p=0.68)) or 90-day mortality (28 (9.2%) vs 8 (7.6%) (p=0.60)).

Conclusions and implications: Multimorbidity is common. Nearly three-quarters of this older emergency general surgical population had 2 or more chronic medical conditions. It was strongly associated with age and frailty, and was not a barrier to surgical intervention. Multimorbidity showed no associations across a range of outcome measures, as it is currently defined. Multimorbidity should not be relied on as a useful clinical tool in guidelines or policies for older emergency surgical patients.


Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease / mortality*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / mortality*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology