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A Description of Deaths Following Emergency Abdominal Surgery

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Emergency major abdominal surgery carries a high mortality rate. The aim of this present study was to characterize a population of deceased abdominal surgical patients, to examine how many died unexpectedly and how many were subject to treatment limitations.


We included adult emergency abdominal surgical patients who died within 30 days postoperatively. We collected data from January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2014, in a Danish tertiary care hospital (Herlev).


A total of 138 patients were included which corresponded to a crude mortality rate of 16.5% in the population. Four percent (5 of 138) of the patients died unexpectedly without any prior signs of deterioration and 46% (65 of 138) experienced a complicated treatment course, 67% of which was treated in the intensive care unit (ICU). The remaining 50% (68 of 138) had treatment limitations, applied pre- or postoperatively, of which 4% were treated in the ICU ward.


In the present study, we found a high number of patients with treatment limitations, offering one explanation to why so relatively few high-risk surgical patients are admitted to the ICU ward. Whether intermediary wards could serve as a viable alternative for these patients, securing a sufficient level of treatment without taking up scarce beds in the intensive care unit, remains an important question for future studies. Furthermore, five patients died unexpectedly, without any clear cause of death, proving that continual strides toward improving the overall process of postoperative care are still demanded.
TidsskriftWorld Journal of Surgery
Udgave nummer12
Sider (fra-til)3105-3110
Antal sider6
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2017

ID: 52682485