Surgeons determined the time it should take between ordering an emergency operation and it actually beginning.

Surgeons determined the time it should take between ordering an emergency operation and it actually beginning.

Delays in emergency surgery increase risk of death: study


A new study suggests delays in performing emergency surgeries increase the risk of patient death, increase the length of hospital stay and cost hospitals more. Hospitals around the world have to balance the resources they allocate for emergency surgeries and those that are scheduled in advance. This research may help administrators do that.

Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa had surgeons determine the time it should take to start surgery on emergency cases like ruptured appendix, leaking blood vessels, or trauma. They then compared what happened when emergency surgeries occurred within those times to when it took longer to begin operating.

When emergency surgeries were delayed patients stayed in hospital longer.
When emergency surgeries were delayed patients stayed in hospital longer. © CBC

‘A 50 per cent increased chanced of dying’

“Patients who had to wait beyond the standard time that we set, they had a 50 per cent increased chance of dying,” said Dr. Alan Forster, senior author of the study. “They also had increased length of hospital stay by about 1.1 days and increased cost to the hospital of about $1,400.”


The reasons for delays were known in 39 per cent of cases. Most common was that no operating room of staff were available. In January 2013, Ottawa Hospital began using a new method for scheduling emergency surgeries. Administrators dedicated operating room time specifically for emergency operations and spread elective surgeries more evenly throughout the week. This resulted in a significant increase in the number of surgeries that happened on time.

This information may be of particular use in Canada where hospital administrations often face difficult decisions due to budget constraints imposed by cash-strapped governments.

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One comment on “Delays in emergency surgery increase risk of death: study
  1. Peter Ashcroft says:

    Shortage of medical staff and cost increases set against reduced budget figures are the problems in many countries these days.