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Does Anastomotic Leak Contribute to High Failure-to-rescue Rates?

Tevis, Sarah E. MD; Carchman, Evie H. MD; Foley, Eugene F. MD; Heise, Charles P. MD; Harms, Bruce A. MD; Kennedy, Gregory D. MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000001409

Objective: Our aim was to evaluate failure-to-rescue (FTR) after anastomotic leak (AL) in colectomy patients.

Background: In the era of pay for performance, it is imperative that we understand the quality measures under which we are scrutinized. FTR has been proposed as a marker of surgical quality. We investigated the role of complications in FTR rates in colectomy patients.

Methods: Patients who underwent nonemergent colectomy from 2012 to 2013 were identified from the The American College of Surgeons National Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP database). Mortality after AL was assessed and stratified in relation to mortality after other postoperative complications. χ2 and logistic regression analysis were used to assess the effect of AL on mortality.

Results: We identified 30,101 patients who met inclusion criteria, 1127 suffered an AL (3.7%). FTR was increased in patients with AL compared with those without AL (6% vs 1%, P < 0.001). The mortality rate after leak was similar to mortality after other major complications. Independent risk factors for death after AL included older age (odds ratio [OR] 3.140; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.744–5.651), cancer diagnosis (OR 2.032; 95% CI, 1.177–3.507), and open approach (OR 2.124; 95% CI, 1.194–3.776) while preoperative bowel preparation was protective (OR 0.563; 95% CI, 0.328–0.969).

Conclusions: AL is a common complication after colectomy with a relatively high FTR rate. As hospitals are penalized for not reaching specific rates of FTR, we must better understand these complex relationships to improve quality and safety of patient care.

Department of Surgery, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.

Reprints: Gregory D. Kennedy, MD, PhD, Department of Surgery, University of Wisconsin, 650 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53792. E-mail:

Disclosure: The authors declare there are no conflicts of interest.

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