The impact of surgical complications on health-related quality of life in women undergoing gynecologic and gynecologic oncology procedures: a prospective longitudinal cohort study

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Oct;215(4):457.e1-457.e13. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2016.04.025. Epub 2016 Apr 27.


Background: There are currently no assessments of the impact of surgical complications on health-related quality of life in gynecology and gynecologic oncology. This is despite complications being a central focus of surgical outcome measurement, and an increasing awareness of the need for patient-reported data when measuring surgical quality.

Objective: We sought to measure the impact of surgical complications on health-related quality of life at 1 month postoperatively, in women undergoing gynecologic and gynecologic oncology procedures.

Study design: This is a prospective cohort study of women undergoing surgery by gynecologic oncologists at a tertiary care academic center from October 2013 through October 2014. Patients were enrolled preoperatively and interviewed at baseline and 1, 3, and 6 months postoperatively. Health-related quality of life measures included validated general and disease-specific instruments, measuring multiple aspects of health-related quality of life, including anxiety and depression. The medical record was abstracted for clinical data and surgical complications were graded using validated Clavien-Dindo criteria, and women grouped into those with and without postoperative complications. Bivariate statistics, analysis of covariance, responder analysis, and multivariate modeling was used to analyze the relationship of postoperative complications to change health-related quality of life from baseline to 1 month. Plots of mean scores and change over time were constructed.

Results: Of 281 women enrolled, response rates were 80% (n = 231/281) at baseline, and from that cohort, 81% (n = 187/231), 74% (n = 170/231), and 75% (n = 174/231) at 1, 3, and 6 months, respectively. The primary analytic cohort comprised 185 women with completed baseline and 1-month interviews, and abstracted clinical data. Uterine (n = 84, 45%), ovarian (n = 23, 12%), cervical (n = 17, 9%), vulvar (n = 3, 2%), and other (n = 4, 2%) cancers were represented, along with 53 (30%) cases of benign disease. There were 42 (24%) racial/ethnic minority women. Minimally invasive (n = 115, 63%) and laparotomy (n = 60, 32%) procedures were performed. Postoperative complications occurred in 47 (26%) of patients who experienced grade 1 (n = 12), grade 2 (n = 29), and grade 3 (n = 6) complications. At 1 month, physical (20.6 vs 22.5, P = .04) and functional (15.4 vs 18.3, P = .02) well-being, global physical health (43.1 vs 46.3, P = .02), and work ability (3 vs 7.2, P = .001) were lower in postoperative complication vs non-postoperative complication women. Relative change, however, in most health-related quality of life domains from baseline to 1 month did not differ between postoperative complication and nonpostoperative complication groups. Postoperative complication patients did have increased odds of sustained or worsened anxiety at 1 month vs baseline (odds ratio, 2.5; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-5.0) compared to nonpostoperative complication patients.

Conclusion: Collectively, women who experienced postoperative complications after gynecologic and gynecologic oncology procedures did not appear to have differences in most health-related quality of life trends over time compared to those who did not. An exception was anxiety, where postoperative complications were associated with sustained or worsened levels of high anxiety after surgery.

Keywords: gynecologic oncology; postoperative complications; quality of life; surgery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Female
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / surgery*
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / psychology*
  • Postoperative Period
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Return to Work
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult