To understand how multimorbidity impacts operative versus nonoperative management of emergency general surgery (EGS) conditions.
EGS is a heterogenous field, encompassing operative and nonoperative treatment options. Decision-making is particularly complex for older patients with multimorbidity.
Using an instrumental variable approach with near-far matching, this national, retrospective observational cohort study of Medicare beneficiaries examines the conditional effects of multimorbidity, defined using qualifying comorbidity sets, on operative versus nonoperative management of EGS conditions.
Of 507,667 patients with EGS conditions, 155,493 (30.6%) received an operation. Overall, 278,836 (54.9%) were multimorbid. After adjustment, multimorbidity significantly increased the risk of in-hospital mortality associated with operative management for general abdominal patients (+9.8%; P = 0.002) and upper gastrointestinal patients (+19.9%, P < 0.001) and the risk of 30-day mortality (+27.7%, P < 0.001) and nonroutine discharge (+21.8%, P = 0.007) associated with operative management for upper gastrointestinal patients. Regardless of multimorbidity status, operative management was associated with a higher risk of in-hospital mortality among colorectal patients (multimorbid: + 12%, P < 0.001; nonmultimorbid: +4%, P = 0.003), higher risk of nonroutine discharge among colorectal (multimorbid: +42.3%, P < 0.001; nonmultimorbid: +55.1%, P < 0.001) and intestinal obstruction patients (multimorbid: +14.6%, P = 0.001; nonmultimorbid: +14.8%, P = 0.001), and lower risk of nonroutine discharge (multimorbid: −11.5%, P < 0.001; nonmultimorbid: −11.9%, P < 0.001) and 30-day readmissions (multimorbid: −8.2%, P = 0.002; nonmultimorbid: −9.7%, P < 0.001) among hepatobiliary patients.
The effects of multimorbidity on operative versus nonoperative management varied by EGS condition category. Physicians and patients should have honest conversations about the expected risks and benefits of treatment options, and future investigations should aim to understand the optimal management of multimorbid EGS patients.