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Bleeding remains a major complication during laparoscopic surgery: analysis of the SALTS database

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Background and aims

The aim of this study was to determine the incidence of bleeding complications from various laparoscopic procedures in a nationwide prospective multicentre study in Switzerland from 1995 to 2001 following an initial learning curve.

Patients and methods

Since 1989, the Swiss Association of Laparoscopic and Thoracoscopic Surgery (SALTS) has prospectively collected data from patients undergoing laparoscopic or thoracoscopic surgery at 114 surgical institutions (university, county and district hospitals, private practice). More than 130 items of data, including indication for surgery, intraoperative course, local as well as general postoperative complications, mortality and follow-up were recorded on a computerised data sheet.


Some 43,028 procedures were assessed and analysed. Local morbidity (e.g. wound infections) occurred in 0.05% of the whole patient group, whereas 3.3% developed general postoperative complications. The overall mortality rate was 0.2%. In 1.7% of the cases, the intraoperative course was complicated by internal bleeding or haematoma of the abdominal wall. In the postoperative course, 1.5% of the patients presented with internal bleeding or bleeding of the abdominal wall. Major vascular injury occurred in 0.09%. This patient group with bleeding complications was analysed in the context of the operator’s experience, instrumental lesions (Veress needle or trocar) and conversion incidence. Furthermore, a trend analysis of the complication rate from 1995 to 2001 was performed.


Although the initial learning curve of laparoscopic procedures is probably finished, the rate of bleeding complications is still substantial. These results demonstrate that the collection of data in the form of multicentre studies is essential for quality control. It permits recognition and understanding of the current problems in laparoscopic surgery in order to improve the quality of daily surgical practice. The fact that the operator’s experience seems to play an important role shows that improvement in learning and teaching programmes is still necessary and should be coordinated on a national basis.

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Correspondence to Lukas Krähenbühl.

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Opitz, I., Gantert, W., Giger, U. et al. Bleeding remains a major complication during laparoscopic surgery: analysis of the SALTS database. Langenbecks Arch Surg 390, 128–133 (2005).

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