Emergency Major Abdominal Surgical Procedures in Older Adults: A Systematic Review of Mortality and Functional Outcomes

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To systematically review the current literature on mortality and functional outcomes after emergency major abdominal surgery in older adults.


Systematic literature search and standardized data collection of primary research publications from January 1994 through December 2013 on mortality or functional outcome in adults aged 65 and older after emergency major abdominal surgery using PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, Cochrane, and CINAHL. Bibliographies of relevant reports were also hand-searched to identify all potentially eligible studies.


Systematic review of retrospective and cohort studies using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses, Meta-analysis Of Observational Studies in Epidemiology, Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology, and A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews guidelines.


Older adults.


Articles were assessed using a standardized quality scoring system based on study design, measurement of exposures, measurement of outcomes, and control for confounding.


Of 1,459 articles screened, 93 underwent full-text review, and 20 were systematically reviewed. In-hospital and 30-day mortality of all older adults exceeded 15% in 14 of 16 studies, where reported. Older adults undergoing emergency major abdominal surgery consistently had higher mortality across study settings and procedure types than younger individuals undergoing emergency procedures and older adults undergoing elective procedures. In studies that stratified older adults, odds of death increased with age. None of these studies examined postoperative functional status, which precluded including functional outcomes in this review. Differences in exposures, outcomes, and data presented in the studies did not allow for quantification of association using metaanalysis.


Age independently predicts mortality after emergency major abdominal surgery. Data on changes in functional status of older adults who undergo these procedures are lacking.

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