Although rates of complications following pancreatectomy are relatively similar in patients both above and below the age of 80 years, significantly higher mortality rates occur in the older age group, according to the findings of a new study published online in the Annals of Surgery
“Previous studies have focused solely on mortality after pancreatectomy in older patients or failure to rescue for all patients undergoing pancreatectomy,” wrote lead author Dr. Nina P. Tamirisa of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and her associates. “For older patients, it is not clear whether the observed increase in mortality rate is attributed to higher rates of postsurgical complications, higher failure to rescue from these postsurgical complications, or both” (Ann. Surg. 2015 [doi:10.1097/SLA.0000000000001093]).
In this study, “failure to rescue” was calculated as the number of patients who died from complications divided by total number of patients with complications and was understood to measure of a hospital’s ability to recognize and manage postoperative complications.
In a retrospective cohort study, Dr. Tamirisa and her coinvestigators looked at data on 2,805 patients in the American College of Surgeons’ National Surgical Quality Improvement Pancreatectomy Demonstration Project (ACS NSQIP) at 43 high-volume centers around the United States between November 2011 and December 2012. Institutions with fewer than 10 cases were excluded, leaving 2,694 subjects from 37 centers for the study.
Following this, patients were divided into cohorts of those younger than 80 years of age, and those aged 80 years or older, which contained 2,496 and 198 subjects, respectively. Overall and individual cohorts were split roughly evenly between males and females. Postoperative morbidity and in-hospital mortality rates were measured along with rate of “failure to rescue.”
Results indicated that there were no significant differences in the rates of complications between the cohorts: 41.4% in patients under 80 years and 39.4% in patients aged 80 years or older (P = .58). However, in-hospital mortality rates were significant higher in the 80 and older cohort (3.0%) than in the younger group (1.1%) (P = .01).
Overall, unadjusted complication rates in the 37 centers included in the study varied widely from 25.0% to as high as 72.2%, while failure to rescue rates at ranged from 0.0% to 25.0%.
Major complications were seen in 29.3% of patients aged 80 years or older and in 28.5% of patients under 80 years old (P = .79), with perioperative bleeding being the most prevalent. Among patients with postoperative complications, ascites, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes were the comorbidities most highly associated with failure to rescue, along with acute renal failure, septic shock, and postoperative pulmonary complications.
“It is always true that avoiding complications will decrease mortality for all patients undergoing pancreatectomy,” concluded the investigators, adding that it’s crucial for there to be more interventions to facilitate identification and aggressive treatment of complications to decrease mortality in vulnerable older patients.
“Several factors, such as individual surgeon volume, impact patient outcomes and failure to rescue rates are a significant but not the sole contributor to increased mortality rates in older patients undergoing pancreatectomy,” wrote Dr. Tamirisa and her coauthors.
This study was funded by grants from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, UTMB Clinical and Translational Science Award, the National Institutes of Health, and the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality. Coauthor Dr. Bruce L. Hall disclosed being a paid consulting director of the American College of Surgeons’ National Surgical Quality Improvement Program.