World Journal of Surgery

, Volume 35, Issue 9, pp 1950–1956 | Cite as

In-hospital Death following Inpatient Surgical Procedures in the United States, 1996–2006

  • Thomas G. Weiser
  • Marcus E. Semel
  • Alan E. Simon
  • Stuart R. Lipsitz
  • Alex B. Haynes
  • Luke M. Funk
  • William R. Berry
  • Atul A. GawandeEmail author



Over the past decade, improvements in perioperative care have been widely introduced throughout the United States, yet there is no clear indication that the death rate following surgery has improved. We sought to evaluate the number of deaths after surgery in the United States over a 10-year period and to evaluate trends in postoperative mortality.


Using the National Hospital Discharge Survey, we identified patients who underwent a surgical procedure and subsequently died in the hospital within 30 days of admission.


In 1996 there were 12,250,000 hospitalizations involving surgery, rising to 13,668,000 in 2006. Postoperative deaths, however, declined during this same period, from 201,000 to 156,000 (P < 0.01), giving a postoperative in-hospital death ratio (death per hospitalization) of 1.64 and 1.14% (P < 0.001), respectively, for the two time frames.


The death rate following surgery is substantial but appears to have improved. Such mortality statistics provide an essential measure of the public health impact of surgical care. Incorporating mortality statistics following therapeutic intervention is an essential strategy for regional and national surveillance of care delivery.


Income Quintile Quality Improvement Initiative National Hospital Discharge Survey Death Ratio Major Lung Resection 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are grateful to Angela Bader from the Harvard School of Public Health and Sandra Decker and Jennifer Madans from the National Center for Health Statistics for their help and insightful feedback during preparation of this manuscript. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas G. Weiser
    • 1
  • Marcus E. Semel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alan E. Simon
    • 3
  • Stuart R. Lipsitz
    • 4
  • Alex B. Haynes
    • 5
  • Luke M. Funk
    • 1
    • 2
  • William R. Berry
    • 2
    • 4
  • Atul A. Gawande
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health Policy and ManagementHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.National Center for Health StatisticsHyattsvilleUSA
  4. 4.Center for Surgery and Public HealthBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA
  5. 5.Department of SurgeryMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA

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