Patient death rates for emergency surgical admissions vary widely

A new study reveals significant variation between hospitals in patient death rates following emergency surgical admissions in England.

The study, published this week in the British Journal of Surgery (BJS), also found that survival rates were higher in hospitals with better resources, according to an announcement about the study.

Patients presenting as emergencies account for the majority of deaths associated with general surgery. Study authors set out to look at increasing evidence that the quality of care for these high-risk patients is variable across hospitals within England's National Health Service, the country's publicly funded healthcare system. They believed this variation in care is likely to be reflected in differences in mortality rates among hospitals.

Researchers found significant variability in death rates within 30 days of admission among patients treated at different hospitals, with rates ranging from 9.2 percent to 18.2 percent.

Hospitals that have more intensive care beds and made better use of ultrasound and computed tomography scanning tended to have lower mortality rates.

"We do not yet fully understand all the reasons for variable performance, but this study strongly suggests that there is considerable scope for improving the care of emergency surgical patients," said lead author Omar Faiz, consultant colorectal surgeon and honorary senior lecturerat St. Mark's Hospital and Imperial College London, Faiz.

"The findings may have long term implications with regard to the provision of emergency services and the infrastructure required to support high-risk emergency patients in acute general hospitals," he said.

The study results come on the heels of a recent JAMA Surgery study, which found patients undergoing eight commonly performed surgical procedures at critical access hospitals (CAH) are no more likely to die in the hospital than patients undergoing the same surgeries at non-CAHs.

To learn more:
- read the abstract
- here's the announcement