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08.05.2020 | Original Article

The importance of discussing mortality risk prior to emergency laparotomy

Updates in Surgery
Vernon Sivarajah, Una Walsh, George Malietzis, Christos Kontovounisios, Vikas Pandey, Gianluca Pellino
Wichtige Hinweise

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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s13304-020-00756-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Emergency laparotomies are often required for life-threatening conditions and consequently are associated with high mortality. This risk should be discussed with patients and ideally their next of kin (NOK). Failure to do so denies patients and their relatives the opportunity to prepare, breaches consent guidance, and may result in complaints and negligent claims. Patients who underwent an emergency laparotomy over 6 months were retrospectively studied. Mortality risk discussion with patients and their NOK as evidenced by documentation on consent forms or clinical notes was recorded. Factors influencing these discussions included patient’s age, American Society of Anaesthesiologists’ score, pre-operative diagnosis, Portsmouth Physiological and Operative Severity Score for the enumeration of Mortality and morbidity (P-POSSUM); seniority of consenting surgeon was also investigated. Seventy-six consecutive patients underwent an emergency laparotomy. Sixty-nine had capacity to give consent. Mortality risk was discussed with 24 (34.8%). These patients were older (median age 77.5 v 65.5 years; P < 0.05) and had a higher median P-POSSUM score (11.5% v 7%; P = 0.313) compared to patient with whom mortality risk was not discussed. Mortality risk was discussed with 14 (18.4%) NOK. This was not influenced by any factor studied. For patients requiring an emergency laparotomy, mortality risk was infrequently discussed with both patients and their NOK. These patients have a higher mortality risk than any other and this “failure to inform” has the potential for serious ramifications.

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