The 7 Most Risky Surgeries and Why They're Risky for You

A number of factors such as new technologies and techniques have made surgery safer than ever. But there are still risks involved. A recent study published in JAMA Surgery found that seven types of operations account for 80 percent of the 3 million emergency general surgery deaths in the U.S. The procedures are:

  • Partial removal of the large or small intestine.
  • Surgery to repair a bleeding or torn ulcer.
  • Separating abdominal organs that have adhered to each other.
  • Appendix removal.
  • Gall bladder removal.
  • Open-abdominal surgery.

These surgeries also account for 80 percent of complications from emergency general surgeries — a surgical specialty that focuses mainly on abdominal health problems. (Heart-related procedures and surgeries resulting from traumatic accidents were not included in this study.) For the study, researches focused on procedures performed within two days of hospital admissions caused by a serious medical condition.

Why Are These Surgeries Relatively Risky?

Keep in mind, this a list of emergency surgeries. Time to plan the procedure and prepare the patient through steps such as cleaning the gastrointestinal tract is often limited or missing. And patients are often already in medical distress. They’re commonly suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding, severe infections of the digestive tract or bowel obstructions.

The researchers found that patients who undergo open-heart surgery can have better outcomes than patients who have open intestinal surgery. And an emergency surgery is up to eight times more likely to result in death than when the same procedure is performed as elective.

Why Are Some Fairly Safe Procedures on The List?

Relatively safe procedures such as appendectomy and gall bladder removal are on the list because about 600,000 of each of the procedures are performed each year. Even a small complication rate multiplied by the large number of procedures adds up and earns the surgeries places on the risky list.

How Can You Reduce the Chances You'll Need Surgery?

Start by taking care of yourself. If you’re not feeling well or have abdominal pain that lasts for more than a few hours, call your health care provider.

It’s a good idea to know about the hospitals in your area and what facilities you have insurance coverage for. Some medical centers have specialties such as heart or cancer care. Be familiar with hospitals in your area.

In an emergency, time is invaluable. If, in advance, you know what your best health care options are, you can save minutes in an emergency. And that can save a life.

Meet the Author

Razieh Hadian Jazi, MD is a Family Medicine Physician at Aurora Health Center in Milwaukee, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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