Recommended Reading: Best of 2017


Recommended Reading lists are something of a tradition for ACS Surgery News. This feature has appeared several times over the years and it has always proved among the most popular items in the publication. But the project hinges on input from our Editorial Advisory Board, the members of which are already regularly called upon to help vet the publication’s content and give their advice. They have gone the extra mile and have once again chosen their “Best of 2017” studies in their own specialty areas, along with commentary on why their choices should be of interest to all surgeons. We hope our readers will find the list and the comments of interest.


General surgery

Cogbill TH et al. Rural general surgery: A 38-year experience with a regional network established by an integrated health system in the Midwestern United States. J Am Coll Surg. 2017;225(1):115-24.

This article is of particular interest because it provides details of an innovative, regional system of surgical care at the critical access hospitals and referral centers that cooperate seamlessly to improve quality of care and quality of practice for rural surgeons. It could serve as a model for similar independent hospitals and practices in a region to improve the practice lives of the surgeons in rural communities and preserve access to local care for rural patients.

Dimou FM et al. Outcomes in older patients with grade III cholecystitis and cholecystostomy tube placement: A propensity score analysis. J Am Coll Surg. 2017;224(4):502-14.This study is valuable because it sheds light on the current status of treatment of severe acute cholecystitis in the United States and reports outcomes of patients who get initial tube cholecystostomy. It demonstrates potential drawbacks of following the Tokyo Guidelines: fewer patients receiving definitive treatment (cholecystectomy) and higher mortality rates and readmissions.

Karen E. Deveney, MD, FACS

Dr. Karen E. Deveney, professor of surgery and vice chair of education in the department of surgery, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland

Dr. Karen E. Deveney

Palliative Care

Gani F et al. Palliative care utilization among patients admitted for gastrointestinal and thoracic cancers. J Palliat Med. 2017 Nov 3; doi: 10.1089/jpm.2017.0295; epub ahead of print.

Is this a matter of “too little too late”? This retrospective cross-sectional analysis of patients identified in the National Inpatient Sample database admitted with a primary diagnosis of gastrointestinal and/or thoracic cancer determined that only 8.5% of patients admitted received palliative care services. Surgical patients were 79% less likely to have received a palliative care consultation, and then only after a prolonged length of stay or postoperative complication. Is referral to palliative care services hindered by its stigmatization with these outcomes?

Taylor LJ et al. A framework to improve surgeon communication in high-stakes surgical decisions: Best Case/Worst Case. JAMA Surgery. 2017;152(6):531-8.

My chief used to say, “You might not be teachable, but you are trainable!” After surgeons received training in the Best Case/Worst Case framework described in this paper, they demonstrated that it was possible to successfully change the focus of decision-making conversations from an isolated surgical problem – with its menu of technical solutions – instead into a discussion about treatment alternatives and outcomes. This intervention is a useful tool for one of the most invasive procedures of all – an exploration of a patient’s preferences and values that is necessary for shared decision making within the acute setting.

Makhani SS et al. Cognitive impairment and overall survival in frail surgical patients. J Amer Coll Surg. 2017 Nov;225(5):590-600.

In my preoperative discussions with families of frail patients, it is often quite evident that the factor driving their decision is the cognitive state of the patient and the consequences of its further decline, even when they are willing to accept the risks of physical frailty. This study in a large multidisciplinary cohort of patients undergoing major operations determined that a combined frailty (Fried frailty score) and cognitive assessment score (Emory Clock Draw Test) has a more powerful potential to predict adult patients at higher risk of overall survival than does either measurement alone. Dual frailty and cognitive screening appears to be a promising adjunct to the shared decision-making process.

Geoffrey P. Dunn, MD, FACS

Dr. Geoffrey P. Dunn

Dr. Geoffrey P. Dunn

Wilson DG et al. Patterns of care in hospitalized vascular patients at end of life. JAMA Surg. 2017;152(2):183-90.

This thoughtful study and the excellent accompanying invited commentary by William Schecter, MD, FACS, address a major, difficult issue that faces all physicians as our patients become older and sicker and our ability to keep them alive expands: How do we speak honestly with patients about their prognosis and likely outcomes and honor their autonomy in decision making?


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