Background: The incidence and impact of postoperative complications are poorly described. Failure-to-rescue, the rate of death following complications, is an important quality measure for perioperative care but has not been investigated across multiple health care systems.
Methods: We analysed data collected during the International Surgical Outcomes Study, an international 7-day cohort study of adults undergoing elective inpatient surgery. Hospitals were ranked by quintiles according to surgical procedural volume (Q1 lowest to Q5 highest). For each quintile we assessed in-hospital complications rates, mortality, and failure-to-rescue. We repeated this analysis ranking hospitals by risk-adjusted complication rates (Q1 lowest to Q5 highest).
Results: A total of 44 814 patients from 474 hospitals in 27 low-, middle-, and high-income countries were available for analysis. Of these, 7508 (17%) developed one or more postoperative complication, with 207 deaths in hospital (0.5%), giving an overall failure-to-rescue rate of 2.8%. When hospitals were ranked in quintiles by procedural volume, we identified a three-fold variation in mortality (Q1: 0.6% vs Q5: 0.2%) and a two-fold variation in failure-to-rescue (Q1: 3.6% vs Q5: 1.7%). Ranking hospitals in quintiles by risk-adjusted complication rate further confirmed the presence of important variations in failure-to-rescue, indicating differences between hospitals in the risk of death among patients after they develop complications.
Conclusions: Comparison of failure-to-rescue rates across health care systems suggests the presence of preventable postoperative deaths. Using such metrics, developing nations could benefit from a data-driven approach to quality improvement, which has proved effective in high-income countries.
Keywords: methods; mortality; operative; postoperative care; statistics and numerical data; surgical procedures.
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