The measurement and monitoring of surgical adverse events

Bruce J, Russell E M, Mollison J, Krukowski Z H
Record ID 32001000935
Authors' objectives:

The aim of this methodological review was to identify a selection of common and potentially avoidable surgical adverse events and to assess whether they could be reliably and validly measured, to review methods for monitoring their occurrence and to identify examples of effective monitoring systems for selected events. This review is a comprehensive attempt to examine the quality of the definition, measurement, reporting and monitoring of selected events that are known to cause significant postoperative morbidity and mortality.

Authors' results and conclusions: Surgical wound infection: A total of 41 different definitions and 13 grading scales of surgical wound infection were identified from 82 studies. Definitions of surgical wound infection varied from presence of pus to complex definitions such as those proposed by the Centres for Disease Control in the USA. A small body of literature has been published on the content, criterion and construct validity of different definitions, and comparisons have been made against wound assessment scales and multidimensional indices. There are examples of comprehensive hospital-based monitoring systems of surgical wound infection, mainly under the auspices of nosocomial surveillance. To date, however, there is little evidence of systematic measurement and monitoring of surgical wound infection after hospital discharge. Anastomotic leak: Over 40 definitions of anastomotic leak were extracted from 107 studies of upper gastrointestinal, hepatopancreaticobiliary and lower gastrointestinal surgery. No formal evaluations were found that assessed the validity or reliability of definitions or severity scales of anastomotic leak. One definition was proposed during a national consensus workshop, but no evidence of its use was found in the surgical literature. The lack of a single definition or gold standard hampers comparison of postoperative anastomotic leak rates between studies and institutions. Deep vein thrombosis: Although a critical review of the DVT literature could not be completed within the realms of this review, it was evident that a number of new techniques for the detection and diagnosis of DVT have emerged in the last 20 years. The group recommends a separate review be undertaken of the different diagnostic tests to detect DVT. Surgical mortality monitoring systems: The definition of surgical mortality is relatively consistent between monitoring systems, but duration of follow-up of death postdischarge varies considerably. The majority of systems report in-hospital mortality rates; only some have the potential to link deaths to national death registers. Risk assessment is an important factor and there should be a distinction between recording pre-intervention factors and postoperative complications. A variety of risk scoring systems was identified in the review. Factors associated with accurate and complete data collection include the employment of local, dedicated personnel, simple and structured prompts to ensure that clinical input is complete, and accurate and automated data capture and transfer.
Authors' recomendations: The use of standardised, valid and reliable definitions is fundamental to the accurate measurement and monitoring of surgical adverse events. This review found inconsistency in the quality of reporting of postoperative adverse events, limiting accurate comparison of rates over time and between institutions. The duration of follow-up for individual events will vary according to their natural history and epidemiology. Although risk-adjusted aggregated rates can act as screening or warning systems for adverse events, attribution of whether events are avoidable or preventable will invariably require further investigation at the level of the individual, unit or department.
Authors' methods: Systematic review
Project Status: Completed
URL for project:
Year Published: 2001
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: England, United Kingdom
MeSH Terms
  • General Surgery
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative
Organisation Name: NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme
Contact Address: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health and Care Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK
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