Complications and Their Association with Mortality Following Emergency Gastrointestinal Surgery-an Observational Study

Anders Winther Voldby, Anders Watt Boolsen, Anne Albers Aaen, Jakob Burcharth, Sarah Ekeløf, Roberto Loprete, Simon Jønck, Hassan Ali Eskandarani, Lau Caspar Thygesen, Ann Merete Møller, Birgitte Brandstrup


PURPOSE: Emergency gastrointestinal surgery is followed by a high risk of major complications and death. This study aimed to investigate which complications showed the strongest association with death following emergency surgery for gastrointestinal obstruction or perforation.

METHODS: We retrospectively included adults who had undergone emergency gastrointestinal surgery for radiologically verified obstruction or perforation at three Danish hospitals between 2014 and 2015. The exposure variables comprised 16 predefined Clavien-Dindo-graded complications. Cox regression with delayed entry was used to analyze the association of these complications with 90-day mortality. We adjusted for hospital, age, American Society of Anesthesiologists classification, pre-operative Sepsis-2 score, cardiac comorbidity, renal comorbidity, hypertension, active cancer, bowel obstruction or perforation, and the surgical procedure. Subgroup analyses were done for patients with gastrointestinal obstruction or perforation.

RESULTS: Of the 349 included patients, 281 (80.5%) experienced at least one complication. The risk of death was 20.6% (14) for patients with no complications and varied between 21 and 57% for patients with complications. Renal impairment (hazard ratio (HR): 6.8 (95%CI: 3.7-12.4)), arterial thromboembolic events (HR 4.8 (2.3-9.9)), and atrial fibrillation (HR 4.4 (2.8-6.8)) showed the strongest association with 90-day mortality. Atrial fibrillation was the only complication significantly associated with death in patients with gastrointestinal obstruction as well as perforation.

CONCLUSION: This study of patients undergoing emergency gastrointestinal surgery revealed that renal impairment, arterial thromboembolic events, and atrial fibrillation had the strongest association with death. Atrial fibrillation may serve as an in-situ marker of patients needing escalation of care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of gastrointestinal surgery : official journal of the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1930-1941
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2022


  • Adult
  • Atrial Fibrillation/complications
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures/adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction/etiology
  • Postoperative Complications/etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


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