Background: Heart failure is a known risk factor for postoperative mortality and complications. Many of the studies used to establish this association, however, have focused on major high-risk surgeries and not on outpatient surgeries. Improved medical care has increased the survival rate of patients with heart failure and an increasing number of these patients are undergoing elective surgical procedures. This has led to an increasing need to better understand the degree to which heart failure affects preoperative risk in the outpatient setting.
Study design: A retrospective cohort study.
Setting: Multiple Veteran’s Affairs Hospitals using data from the VA Surgical Quality Improvement Program () and the VA Corporate Data Warehouse.
Synopsis: A total of 355,121 patients who underwent outpatient surgeries were analyzed. 19,353 patients had heart failure and 334,768 did not. Patients with heart failure had a higher risk of 90-day mortality with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.95 (95% confidence interval, 1.69-2.44), and this risk progressively increased as the ejection fraction decreased. The risk of 30-day complication also increased in patients with heart failure with an adjusted OR of 1.10 (95% CI, 1.02-1.19).
Limitations of this study include the patient population, which were all veterans and mostly male. The nature of the inclusion criteria was limiting as well, in that all the patients in this study were deemed fit for surgery. There were no data available for patients who had been considered but ultimately did not undergo surgery or for patients who were considered for ambulatory surgery but ultimately underwent inpatient surgery. These limitations may have resulted in a selection bias, which limited the generalizability of the study’s findings when assessing patients for ambulatory surgery.
Bottom line: Patients with heart failure had a higher risk of 90-day postoperative mortality and 30-day postoperative complication in ambulatory noncardiac surgery. The risk of postoperative mortality increased as systolic function decreased.
Citation: Lerman BJ et al. Association between heart failure and postoperative mortality among patients undergoing ambulatory noncardiac surgery. JAMA Surg. 2019 Jul 10..
Dr. Cheatham is a hospitalist and clinical educator at St. Louis University School of Medicine.