The Riskiest Times for Surgery

Death after surgery happened in cyclical and seasonal patterns

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) A successful surgery depends on a combination of factors, such as skilled doctors, quality equipment and hospital location. Unfortunately, some other factors may often get overlooked.

A recent study found that death after surgery was cyclical and seasonal.

The researchers discovered that patients who underwent surgery in the afternoon, during the weekend and in February were at increased risk of death compared to the patients who underwent surgery at any other time of the day, week or year.

"Discuss any concerns about your surgery with your doctor."

The lead author of this study was Felix Kork, MD, from the Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care at Charité, University Medicine Berlin in Berlin, Germany.

The study included 218,758 patients who had surgery between 2006 and 2011 at two university hospitals in Berlin.

The researchers looked to see how many patients died after surgery, and when those surgeries occurred in order to see if hospital deaths occurred in a cyclical pattern.

The findings showed that there were patterns of hospital deaths after surgery over the course of a day, during different weekdays and different months.

Patients that had surgery in the afternoon were 21 percent more likely to die compared to the patients who had surgery at other times during the day.

Weekend surgery was associated with a 22 percent increased risk of death compared to weekday surgery.

The researchers also discovered that February was the riskiest month for surgery, carrying a 16 percent increased risk of death compared to surgery in any other month of the year.

"Several factors may have influenced this outcome,” concluded the researchers. “For example, it may be that standard of care differs throughout the day and between weekdays and weekends. Although we controlled for risk factors including emergency surgery in our study, it may very well be that the patients treated in the afternoon and on the weekends were more severely ill. We need more data to draw conclusions regarding seasonal variation in postoperative outcome."

Dr. Kork and team ultimately argued that more data and analysis are needed to determine exactly why these patterns occur.

This study was presented on May 31 at Euroanaesthesia 2014.

Review Date: 
May 31, 2014
Last Updated:
June 2, 2014