Preoperative communication with older patients and their families about high-risk surgical outcomes

Berian JR, et al. Association of Loss of Independence With Readmission and Death After Discharge in Older Patients After Surgical Procedures. JAMA Surg. 2016 Sep 21;151(9): e161689.

Full-text for Emory users.

Results: Of the 5077 patients included in this study, 2736 (53.9%) were female and 3876 (76.3%) were white, with a mean (SD) age of 75 (7) years. For this cohort, LOI increased with age; LOI occurred in 1386 of 2780 patients (49.9%) aged 65 to 74 years, 1162 of 1726 (67.3%) aged 75 to 84 years, and 479 of 571 (83.9%) 85 years and older (P < .001). Readmission occurred in 517 patients (10.2%). In a risk-adjusted model, LOI was strongly associated with readmission (odds ratio, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.4-2.2) and postoperative complication (odds ratio, 6.7; 95% CI, 4.9-9.0). Death after discharge occurred in 69 patients (1.4%). After risk adjustment, LOI was the strongest factor associated with death after discharge (odds ratio, 6.7; 95% CI, 2.4-19.3). Postoperative complication was not significantly associated with death after discharge.

Continue reading

AAA repair: retroperitoneal vs transperitoneal approach

One discussion this week included transperitoneal vs retroperitoneal  approach following AAA repair.

Reference: Buck DB, et al. Transperitoneal vs retroperitoneal approach for open abdominal aortic aneurysm repair in the targeted vascular NSQIP. Journal of Vascular Surgery. 2016 Sept;64(3):585-591. doi:10/1016/j.jvs.2016.01.055.

Summary: This study aims to identify the demographic and anatomical differences between patients currently selected for elective transperitoneal versus retroperitoneal AAA repair and to assess differences in intra-operative details, and perioperative mortality and complications.

Continue reading

Open vs endovascular revascularization for ALI: a review of major trials

One discussion this week involved open surgical versus endovascular revascularization for acute limb ischemia (ALI).

Reference: Wang JC, Kim AH, Kashyap VS. Open surgical or endovascular revascularization for acute limb ischemia. Journal of Vascular Surgery. 2016 Jan;63(1):270-278. doi:10/1016/j.jvs.2015.09.055.

Summary: Peripheral arterial disease affects approximately 10 million Americans. It can lead to lower extremity ischemic rest pain or tissue loss (Rutherford classification 4 to 6, or Fontaine classification III and IV). Acute limb ischemia (ALI) is defined as the presence of symptoms within 2 weeks of onset. ALI pathogenesis includes vascular stenoses with subsequent in situ thrombosis or thromboembolism from a cardiac or aortoiliac source. Stenotic lesions may indicate untreated comorbidities (eg, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, or tobacco use), whereas thromboembolisms implicate undiagnosed cardiac arrhythmias, myocardial infarction (MI), or mural thrombus. Limb loss risk due to ALI can be as high as 40% with an attendant mortality rate of 15% to 20% (p.270).

Limb salvage (LS) revascularization is traditionally achieved with emergent surgical thromboembolectomy or bypass. Catheter-based technologic advancements have afforded a wide array of endovascular therapy (ET) amenable for treating ALI, including catheter-directed thrombolysis (CDT), pharmacomechanical thrombolysis (PMT), angioplasty, and stenting.

For this review, a systematic literature review using MEDLINE (1990-
2014) was performed with querying keywords acute limb ischemia, acute occlusion, peripheral arteries, thrombectomy, thrombolysis, and complications. Clinical trials, registry reports, open vs endovascular arterial revascularization, and review articles were included. Attention was given to revascularization techniques, short- and long-term patency, LS rates, amputation-free survival (AFS), overall survival (OS), and complications. Four RCTs and 5 other study types were analyzed.





CONCLUSION: ALI remains a morbid condition with high risk for limb loss and death. Based on the current evidence, ET is effective for LS and safer in the short term than urgent open revascularization in the studied patients. Still, individual patient factors need to be carefully considered for further generalization. ET and surgery are complementary rather than competing strategies for treating ALI. Further good-quality clinical trial data are required to define longer term outcomes.

True or False: Atelectasis as cause of postoperative fever.

One discussion this week included atelectasis as a potential cause of postoperative fever.

Reference: Crompton JG, Crompton PD, Matzinger P. Does atelectasis cause fever after surgery? Putting a damper on dogma. JAMA Surgery. 2019 Mar 6:154(5):375-376. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2018.5645.

Summary: Fever and atelectasis are common after surgery, and in the absence of infectious causative mechanisms, atelectasis is commonly thought to be a cause of fever. The therapeutic implication of atelectasis as a putative cause of postoperative fever has been the widespread adoption of incentive spirometry to reduce atelectasis.

Continue reading

Step-up vs open necrosectomy for pancreatitis: the PANTER trial’s 2019 followup

One discussion this week included the question of step-up approach versus open necrosectomy for pancreatitis.


BACKGROUND: The 2010 randomized PANTER trial in (infected) necrotizing pancreatitis found a minimally invasive step-up approach to be superior to primary open necrosectomy for the primary combined endpoint of mortality and major complications, but long-term results are unknown.

NEW FINDINGS: With extended follow-up, in the step-up group, patients had fewer incisional hernias, less exocrine insufficiency and a trend towards less endocrine insufficiency. No differences between groups were seen for recurrent or chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic endoscopic or surgical interventions, quality of life or costs.

IMPACT: Considering both short and long-term results, the step-up approach is superior to open necrosectomy for the treatment of infected necrotizing pancreatitis.

Continue reading

Surgeon’s choice: TEP or TAPP for recurrent inguinal hernia repair?

One discussion involved the comparison of outcomes for TEP and TAPP for hernia repair.

Reference: Kockerling F, et al. TEP or TAPP for recurrent inguinal hernia repair-registered-based comparison of the outcome. Surgical Endoscopy. 2017 Oct;31(10):3872-3882. doi: 10.1007/s00464-017-5416-1

Summary: To date, no randomized trials have been conducted to compare the TEP vs TAPP outcome for recurrent inguinal hernia repair. Between September 1, 2009 and August 31, 2013 data were entered into the Herniamed Registry on a total of 2246 patients with recurrent inguinal hernia repair following previous open primary operation in either TAPP (n = 1,464) or TEP technique (n = 782).

  • TAPP group: recurrent repair was performed for n=974/1,464 (66.5%) patients after suture and n=490/1,464 (33.5%) after mesh repair.
  • TEP group: recurrent repair was performed for n=554/782 (70.8%) patients following previous suture repair and for n=228/782 (29.2%) after mesh repair.

No significant differences were found between the recurrent operations in TEP vs TAPP technique with regard to the intraoperative complications, complication-related reoperations, re-recurrence rates, rates of pain at rest, pain on exertion, or chronic pain requiring treatment. Unfavorable results were identified only with regard to the higher seroma rates associated with TAPP; these responded to conservative treatment.

In summary, both TEP and TAPP can be recommended as effective techniques for treatment of recurrent inguinal hernia following previous open primary operation. The decision to use one or the other technique should be based solely on the surgeon’s expertise. The registry study presented here thus confirms the recommendations in the guidelines on laparo-endoscopic treatment of recurrent inguinal hernia following previous open primary operation.


Pro vs Con: thrombolysis for submassive PE

One discussion this week included thrombolysis for submassive PE.

References: Howard LS. Thrombolytic therapy for submassive pulmonary embolus? PRO viewpoint. Thorax. 2014 Feb;69(2):103-105.

Simpson AJ. Thrombolysis for acute submassive pulmonary embolism: CON viewpoint. Thorax. 2014 Feb;69(2):105-107.

Summary:  The normotensive patient with confirmed pulmonary embolism (PE) and right ventricular (RV) dilatation presents a significant dilemma to clinicians. On one hand, a string of publications have demonstrated that RV dysfunction is associated with adverse outcomes in patients with PE; on the other, thrombolysis carries a significant risk of bleeding. The real problem of course (and part of the reason for having this important debate) is that we have no reliable and accurate tools to pinpoint the important minority of patients with submassive PE who genuinely might benefit from thrombolysis or perhaps from surgical embolectomy

PRO: In proposing the argument that submassive PE should be treated with thrombolysis, we must first accept that direct mortality due to the PE itself, not confounding conditions, remains unacceptably high with anticoagulation alone. A more aggressive strategy is required. As long as the benefits of thrombolysis outweigh the risks, then thrombolysis offers the best currently available approach. When this is coupled with the further benefits of likely reduction in CTEPH, the case becomes even stronger.

Outcomes in patients with true submassive PE remain unacceptably high and thrombolysis has been shown to improve surrogate outcomes for mortality as well as long-term complications. The risks from thrombolysis are low, and when reduced doses are used, evidence so far suggests no decrease in benefit, but a further reduction in bleeding.

CON: The emerging picture is that, at the point of presentation, patients with submassive PE are highly likely to survive if treated with heparin alone and that the associated RV dilatation is likely to resolve spontaneously in the significant majority. The nagging doubt, of course, surrounds the small proportion of patients who will have persistent RV dysfunction, particularly as this group seems vulnerable to recurrent venous thromboembolism (VTE).

However attractive it may be theoretically, we have no strong evidence to inform whether early thrombolysis can reduce VTE recurrence—we know that longer-term anticoagulation does. Similarly, we have no evidence that early thrombolysis reduces the risk of CTEPH, yet modern treatments significantly improve outcomes for this important
complication. So, instead of early thrombolysis, why not repeat echocardiography at 3 months, prolong anticoagulation in those with persistent RV impairment and assess carefully for evidence of CTEPH in the ensuing period?

Please see the full text of these editorials (linked above in references) for the full argument and citations. 

Outcomes of and predictors for bowel ischemia after AAA repair: a study of 7312 patients

One discussion this week included AAA repair. The article cited here was provided by the chief resident.

Reference: Ultee KH, et al. Incidence of and risk factors for bowel ischemia after abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. Journal of Vascular Surgery. 2016 Nov;64(5):1384-1391. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2016.05.045.

Summary: Bowel ischemia is a rare but devastating complication after abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair. Its rarity has prohibited extensive risk-factor analysis, particularly since the widespread adoption of endovascular AAA repair (EVAR); therefore, this study assessed the incidence of postoperative bowel ischemia after AAA repair in the endovascular era and identified risk factors for its occurrence

METHODS: A total of 7312 patients undergoing intact or ruptured AAA repair in the Vascular Study Group of New England (VSGNE) January 2003 – November 2014 were included. Patients with and without postoperative bowel ischemia were compared and stratified by indication (intact and ruptured) and treatment approach (open repair and EVAR). Criteria for diagnosis were endoscopic or clinical evidence of ischemia, including bloody stools, in patients who died before diagnostic procedures were performed. Independent predictors of postoperative bowel ischemia were established using multivariable logistic regression analysis.

RESULTS: Postoperative outcomes (p.1389):

AAA repair

RESULTS: Predictors of bowel ischemia after AAA repair (p.1390):

AAA predictors

CONCLUSIONS: The authors state that “these date should be considered during operative planning in an effort to adequately assess patient risk for bowel ischemia and undertake efforts to reduce it” (p.1391).

The Child-Pugh score and its impact on surgical morbidity and mortality (check out the references if nothing else)

One discussion this week involved the impact of the Child-Pugh scoring system. A special thank you to Dr. Sellers for providing the wealth of original documents for this post. We love hearing you talk about liver disease and portal hypertension!


Cheung A., Cheung A. The Child-Pugh score: prognosis in chronic liver disease and cirrhosis [Classics Series]. 2 Minute Medicine, The Classics in Medicine: Summaries of the Landmark Trials. 2013 Jul 16. Retrieved May 17, 2019 from

Garrison RN, et al. Clarification of risk factors for abdominal operations in patients with hepatic cirrhosis. Annals of Surgery. 1984 Jun;199(6):648-655.

Malinchoc M, et al. A model to predict poor survival in patients undergoing transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunts. Hepatology. 2000 Apr;31(4):864-871.

Mansour A, et al. Abdominal operations in patients with cirrhosis: still a major surgical challenge. Surgery. 1997 Oct;122(4):730-735. discussion 735-736.

Pugh RN, et al. Transection of the oesophagus for bleeding oesophageal varices. The British Journal of Surgery. 1973 Aug;60(8):646-649.

Teh SH, et al. Risk factors for mortality after surgery in patients with cirrhosis. Gastroenterology. 2007 Apr;132(4):1261-1269.

Summary: The Child-Pugh score consists of five clinical features and is used to assess the prognosis of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. It was originally developed in 1973 to predict surgical outcomes in patients presenting with bleeding esophageal varices. It has since been modified, refined, and become a widely used tool to assess prognosis in patients with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

The score considers five factors, three of which assess the synthetic function of the liver (i.e., total bilirubin level, serum albumin, and international normalized ratio, or INR) and two of which are based on clinical assessment (i.e., degree of ascites and degree of hepatic encephalopathy). Critics of the Child-Pugh score have noted its reliance on clinical assessment, which may result in inconsistency in scoring. Others have suggested that its broad classifications of disease are impractical when determining priority for liver transplantation; nevertheless, it remains widely used.

child pugh

In their 1997 study, Mansour et al found the mortality in Child’s class A was 10%, compared to 30% in Class B and 82% in Class C patients.

The Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) is a newer scoring system that has been developed to address some of the concerns with the Child-Pugh score, and the two systems are often used in conjunction to determine liver transplantation priority.

The utility of the Model for End-stage Liver Disease (MELD) in predicting mortality after surgery other than liver transplantation is unknown. In determining the risk factors for postoperative mortality in patients with cirrhosis, Teh et al (2007) found that only MELD score, American Society of Anesthesiologists class, and age predicted mortality at 30 and 90 days, 1 year, and long-term, independently of type or year of surgery. Emergency surgery was the only independent predictor of duration of hospitalization postoperatively. Thirty-day mortality ranged from 5.7% (MELD score, <8) to more than 50% (MELD score, >20). The relationship between MELD score and mortality persisted throughout the 20-year postoperative period.