The Ottawa Hospital Emergency Surgery Study: A World Leader in the Delivery of High Quality and Efficient Surgical Care

Posted on Monday, July 10, 2017

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa are tackling the often-overlooked issue of delayed emergency surgeries. Emergency surgeries are those needed quickly to treat serious injuries or life-threatening conditions, such as a hip fracture, appendicitis or a burst blood vessel. 

Emergency surgeries represent 13 percent of surgeries performed in Ontario, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care1. Canada’s aging population will likely increase demand in the future.

Surgeons performing a hip surgery

 “Delays in emergency surgeries are a problem around the world. Despite this, there’s been uncertainty about whether it impacts patient health,” said senior author Dr. Alan Forster, Vice-President of Quality, Performance and Population Health and senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. “For the first time we have strong evidence that the sooner you get to the operating room for an emergency surgery, the better off you are, regardless of your condition before surgery. This study adds to the evidence suggesting that timely access to the OR is important for both patients and care providers.” 

Dr. Forster and his team published a study in CMAJ that shows there are consequences for both patients and the hospital when emergency surgeries are delayed. Because there are no standards for the timeframe a patient with emergency needs should get into surgery, the researchers set an aggressive scale for the different grades of urgency. 

They found that patients whose emergency surgeries were delayed had a 4.9 percent mortality risk in hospital, compared to a 3.2 percent risk for non-delayed patients. Delayed patients also stayed in hospital after their surgery on average 1.1 days longer, and cost the hospital $1,409 more than patients who were not delayed. 

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