Going in for surgery can be terrifying for some patients. While some procedures are considered routine, others can have deadly side effects, which is why we’re taking a look at some of the riskiest medical procedures being performed today. Some of your patients may have to go in for these procedures from time to time, so we’re here to give you the lowdown as to why these six are considered so risky.
Riskiest Medical Procedures
We’ve compiled data from several different sources to learn about some of the riskiest procedures in the medical industry. Based on our findings, here’s our list of the six riskiest medical procedures:
A complete removal and reconstruction of the esophagus. Possible risks include leakage where the new esophagus is connected to the stomach or rupturing of the new esophagus.
Removal of all or part of the pancreas, usually due to cancer. Possible risk factors include postoperative bleeding, delayed gastric emptying, a condition in which food and liquids are slow to leave the stomach, and internal anastomotic leaking.
- Repairs of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) refers to an abnormal widening of the abdominal aorta, the main artery supplying blood to the organs in the abdomen and lower part of the body. The vast majority of those that suffer an AAA die before they reach the hospital. There are three ways to repair an AAA: surgery, in which the doctor sews in a synthetic graft to replace the damaged aorta; endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR), in which a stent graft is inserted through the groin, and laparoscopic repair, when a stent graft is inserted through cuts in the patient’s abdomen. While all these methods come with risks, EVAR can reduce complications by making smaller incisions into the body.
- Surgical Ventricular Restoration
This procedure restores the heart ventricle to its normal shape after a heart attack or congestive heart failure to improve functionality. The poorly functioning ventricle is remodeled to a calculated size based on each person’s body surface area.
This procedure involves removing part of the skull so doctors can inspect it or the brain, leaving portions of the brain vulnerable if not protected properly. Complications can include loss of vision, mobility, speech, memory, and coordination. If fluid starts to build up in the brain, it could lead to stroke, seizures, spinal fluid leakage, and possible swelling of the brain.
- Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement
TAVR is used to replace a narrowed aortic valve that fails to open properly, a condition known as aortic valve stenosis. In this procedure, the doctor will insert a catheter into the patient’s leg or chest and guide it to their heart.
As you can see, these procedures deal with some of the most delicate parts of the body, including the heart, brain, and pancreas.
Varying Survival Rates
While these procedures come with more than a fair share of risks, not all patients will have the same chances of survival. A study from the nonprofit Leapfrog Group, a patient-safety organization supported by large employers, and Castlight Health Inc, which sells software for employers to manage healthcare spending, shows that survival rates can vary by as much as 23% for any of the four riskiest procedures based on which hospital the patient chooses.
Leapfrog asked 1,500 hospitals for data on the four riskiest surgeries, including the number of procedures performed and patient deaths. It adjusted the numbers to come up with a “predicted survival” estimate for each. The study found the following:
- For pancreatectomy, predicted survival rates ranged from 81% to 100%. Of 487 hospitals reporting data, 203 had rates of at least 91.3%.
- For esophagectomy, expected survival ranged from 88% to 98%. Only 182 of 535 hospitals had rates of at least 91.7%.
- For repairs of abdominal aortic aneurysm, survival rates ranged from 86% to 99%; 268 of 792 hospitals met the benchmark of 97.3%.
- For replacing the heart’s aortic valve, survival ranged from 92% to 97%; only 95 of 544 hospitals hit 95.6%.
Hospital ratings tend to vary widely based on data from numerous groups and organizations, so choosing the “best” hospital for a certain procedure can be a challenge. If a patient is looking to have one of these procedures performed, they can request data regarding their chances of survival from different area hospitals. This may help inform their decision in terms of where to get treated.
Choosing a hospital can mean the difference between life and death for some people. Keep this data in mind when advising your patients.