Mayo Clinic study finds differences in postoperative complication data

Administrative and registry data on common postoperative complications like pneumonia, sepsis, surgical site infections and urinary tract infections differ greatly, according to a Mayo Clinic study in the Annals of Surgery.

A research team compared and contrasted the ways used to determine if postoperative complications occurred in patients. They looked at patient admissions between 2012 and 2014 at Mayo Clinic's campuses in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota.

The team found administrative data on such complications, gathered by hospitals and providers for financial purposes, differs greatly from administrative data gathered by trained staff using clearly defined clinical criteria.

"The two systems give very different assessments of postoperative complications, even for the same patient," said David Etzioni, MD, chair of the Division of Colorectal Surgery on Mayo Clinic's Phoenix campus. "What we find is that these two types of databases — even when looking at the same patient — report very different answers as to whether or not a complication occurred. The rates of complications seen in these two databases can vary quite widely — up to fivefold."

Dr. Etzioni said the study's findings should raise the question of how postoperative outcomes should be assessed.

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