Improving patient outcomes in emergency surgery

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RCSI is committed to informing a critical and ongoing conversation about the future structure of emergency surgical services in Ireland.

Through our involvement in the National Clinical Programme for Surgery and the Healthcare Outcomes Research Centre (HORC) at RCSI, we develop and disseminate evidence-based research on healthcare outcomes to inform policy and improve patient outcomes.

A recent study in BMJ Open led by RCSI found that emergency abdominal surgery patients under the care of high-volume surgeons are more likely to survive. The objective of the study was to determine mortality following surgeries at national level and to investigate the relationship between volume and mortality.

High-volume surgical teams are categorised as those who performed more than 12 procedures a year during the five years of the study, while low-volume teams performed less than six procedures each year.

Emergency abdominal surgery is considered high-risk, both in Ireland and internationally, and is associated with significant mortality and morbidity. Outcomes are poorest for older and frail patients, as well as patients from ethnic minorities and lower socio-economic groups.

Improved understanding of this relationship can inform policy decisions regarding the structure of emergency abdominal surgery at regional and national levels.

Following the study, the question which must now be considered is whether or not low-volume surgeons or hospitals should continue to provide on-call acute surgical service.

By carrying out research of this kind, RCSI's aims to help inform policy and decision-making so that patient outcomes can improve.

RCSI is committed to achieving a better and more sustainable future through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.