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BMJ Open. 2017 Apr 8;7(4):e013966. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013966.

Is postoperative decrease of serum albumin an early predictor of complications after major abdominal surgery? A prospective cohort study in a European centre.

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Department of Visceral Surgery, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Lausanne, Switzerland.



To test postoperative serum albumin drop (ΔAlb) as a marker of surgical stress response and early predictor of clinical outcomes.


Prospective cohort study (NCT02356484). Albumin was prospectively measured in 138 patients undergoing major abdominal surgery. Blood samples were collected before surgery and on postoperative days 0, 1 2 and 3. ΔAlb was compared to the modified estimation of physiologic ability and surgical stress (mE-PASS) score and correlated to the performances of C reactive protein (CRP), procalcitonin (PCT) and lactate (LCT). Postoperative outcomes were postoperative complications according to Clavien classification and Comprehensive Complication Index (CCI), and length of hospital stay (LoS).


Department of abdominal surgery in a European tertiary centre.


Adult patients undergoing elective major abdominal surgery, with anticipated duration ≥2 hours. Patients on immunosuppressive or antibiotic treatments before surgery were excluded.


The level of serum albumin rapidly dropped after surgery. ΔAlb correlated to the mE-PASS score (r=0.275, p=0.01) and to CRP increase (r=0.536, p<0.001). ΔAlb also correlated to overall complications (r=0.485, p<0.001), CCI (r=0.383, p<0.001) and LoS (r=0.468, p<0.001). A ΔAlb ≥10 g/L yielded a sensitivity of 77.1% and a specificity of 67.2% (AUC: 78.3%) to predict complications. Patients with ΔAlb ≥10 g/L on POD 1 showed a threefold increased risk of overall postoperative complications.


Early postoperative decrease of serum albumin correlated with the extent of surgery, its metabolic response and with adverse outcomes such as complications and length of stay. A decreased concentration of serum albumin ≥10 g/L on POD 1 was associated with a threefold increased risk of overall postoperative complications and may thus be used to identify patients at risk.


Biomarker; albumin; major surgery; postoperative complications; stress response

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