Friday, September 30, 2011

Risky Business

A report has just been published by the Royal College of Surgeons of England entitled “The Higher Risk General Surgical Patient: towards improved care for a forgotten group”. It is a very sobering examination of the outcome in non cardiac emergency surgery.

Higher risk non-cardiac general surgery is undertaken in every acute hospital. By way of comparison, the mortality for this group, which includes most major gastro-intestinal and vascular procedures, exceeds that for cardiac surgery by two to three fold and complication rates of 50% are not uncommon. There may be a lack of awareness of the level of risk. Among these patients, emergency surgery and unscheduled management of complications is common and this group of patients are one of the largest consumers of critical care resources. The health and financial costs are considerable. 
The most amazing statistic in this paper is the fact that “Complications occur in as many as 50% of patients undergoing some common procedures.”
My pet interest of variation in care and outcomes is addressed.
Review of 2008/9 hospital episode statistics (HES) data from Dr Foster reveal a greater than two-fold variation in relative risk of 30-day mortality (risk-adjusted) after non-elective lower GI procedures between trusts in the North West SHA (strategic health authority). It is known that the chance of a patient dying in a UK hospital is 10% higher if he or she is admitted at a weekend rather than during the week.
Anyone involved in ensuring good outcomes for surgical patients, or ensuring that hospital resources are used efficiently, (by reducing unnecessary complications) needs to read this.

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