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Predictive Power of the NSQIP Risk Calculator for Early Post-Operative Outcomes After Whipple: Experience from a Regional Center in Northern Ontario

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NSQIP Risk Calculator was developed to allow surgeons to inform their patients about their individual risks for surgery. Its ability to predict complication rates and length of stay (LOS) has made it an appealing tool for both patients and surgeons. However, the NSQIP Risk Calculator has been criticized for its generality and lack of detail towards surgical subspecialties, including the hepatopancreaticobiliary (HPB) surgery. We wish to determine whether the NSQIP Risk Calculator is predictive of post-operative complications and LOS with respect to Whipple’s resections for our patient population. As well, we wish to identify strategies to optimize early surgical outcomes in patients with pancreatic cancer.


We conducted a retrospective review of patients who underwent elective Whipple’s procedure for benign or malignant pancreatic head lesions at Health Sciences North (Sudbury, Ontario), a tertiary care center, from February 2014 to August 2016. Comparisons of LOS and post-operative complications between NSQIP-predicted and actual ones were carried out. NSQIP-predicted complications rates were obtained using the NSQIP Risk Calculator through pre-defined preoperative risk factors. Clinical outcomes examined, at 30 days post-operation, included pneumonia, cardiac events, surgical site infection (SSI), urinary tract infection (UTI), venous thromboembolism (VTE), renal failure, readmission, and reoperation for procedural complications. As well, mortality, disposition to nursing or rehabilitation facilities, and LOS were assessed.


A total of 40 patients underwent Whipple’s procedure at our center from February 2014 to August 2016. The average age was 68 (50–85), and there were 22 males and 18 females. The majority of patients had independent baseline functional status (39/40) with minimal pre-operative comorbidities. The overall post-operative morbidity was 47.5% (19/40). The rate of serious complication was 17.5% with four Clavien grade II, two grade III, and one grade V complications. One mortality occurred within 30 days after surgery. NSQIP Risk Calculator was predictive for the majority of post-surgical complication types, including pneumonia, SSI, VTE, reoperation, readmission, and disposition to rehabilitation or nursing home. Our center appears to have a higher rate of UTI than NSQIP predicted (O/E = 3.9), as well, the rate of cardiac complication (O/E = 3.1) also appears to be higher at our center. With respect to readmission rates (O/E = 0.6) and renal failure (O/E = 0), NSQIP provided overestimated rates. The average LOS was 11.9 ± 0.9 days, which was not significantly different from the average LOS of 11.5 ± 0.3 days predicted by NSQIP (p = 0.3). Overall, 80% of discharges occurred less than or within 3 days of that predicted by NSQIP.


NSQIP Risk Calculator is predictive of post-operative complications and LOS for patients who have undergone Whipple’s at our center. A more HPB-focused NSQIP calculator may accurately project post-operative complication in the pre-operative period. Nevertheless, the generic NSQIP has allowed us to examine our existing practice of post-operative care and has paved way to reduce cardiac and urinary complications in the future.

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Correspondence to Jeffrey B. Shum.

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Jiang, H.Y., Kohtakangas, E.L., Asai, K. et al. Predictive Power of the NSQIP Risk Calculator for Early Post-Operative Outcomes After Whipple: Experience from a Regional Center in Northern Ontario. J Gastrointest Canc 49, 288–294 (2018).

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