Operations on patients deemed “unfit for operation and anaesthesia”: What are the consequences?


Dept. of Anaesthesiology University of Graz Auenbruggerplatz 29 A-8036 Graz Austria


Background: The decision “patient unfit for anaesthesia and operation” is likely to cause a delay of the scheduled operation. This retrospective evaluation was done: 1) to determine the correctness of preoperative tentative diagnoses of coexisting diseases making anaesthesia and operation excessively risky in relation to the physician's training status; 2) to examine the question of whether preoperative medical management modified according to the anaesthesiologist's suggestions had a positive impact on the perioperative course.

Methods: The medical records of patients scheduled for elective non-cardiac surgery who were rated “unfit for operation and anaesthesia” were evaluated. The accuracy of the tentative diagnoses was examined for relation to the training status of the anaesthesiologists. The preoperative management was tested for its impact on postoperative outcome.

Results: During the observation period 16 122 patients underwent preoperative anaesthesiological assessment; 1021(6.3%) were initially considered to be unfit for operation and anaesthesia. The records of 807 patients were available for review. The accuracy of the tentative diagnoses was 70%, and was not significantly affected by the training status of the physicians (P= 0.022). Four hundred and seventeen patients were excluded from the second part of the investigation (discharged without operation, underwent operation using local anaesthesia or tentative diagnosis not confirmed). Three hundred and ninety patients were operated under general anaesthesia. Group I (n= 216) was managed according to the anaesthesiologist's suggestions and was found to have a significantly lower complication rate (18.1%) than group II (n=174) in which the suggestions from the preoperative assessment were ignored (32.2%; P<0.05). The perioperative mortality rate in group I was 2.3% compared with 5.2% in group II (n.s.; P>0.05).

Conclusions: We conclude that the anaesthesiology decision “patient unfit for operation and anaesthesia” has a high accuracy, independent of the anaesthesiologist's training status, and that preoperative medical management significantly reduces complications.