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Pediatrics. 2019 Apr;143(4). pii: e20182042. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-2042. Epub 2019 Mar 1.

Predicting Postoperative Physiologic Decline After Surgery.

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Division of General Pediatrics, Complex Care Service and
Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
Departments of Anesthesiology, Critical Care, and Pain Medicine and.
Division of General Pediatrics, Complex Care Service and.
Healthcare Systems Engineering Institute, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts; and.
Surgery, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California.



Projecting postoperative recovery in pediatric surgical patients is challenging. We assessed how the patients' number of complex chronic conditions (CCCs) and chronic medications interacted with active health issues to influence the likelihood of postoperative physiologic decline (PoPD).


A prospective study of 3295 patients undergoing elective surgery at a freestanding children's hospital. During preoperative clinical evaluation, active health problems, CCCs, and medications were documented. PoPD (compromise of cardiovascular, respiratory, and/or neurologic systems) was measured prospectively every 4 hours by inpatient nurses. PoPD odds were estimated with multivariable logistic regression. Classification and regression tree analysis distinguished children with the highest and lowest likelihood of PoPD.


Median age at surgery was 8 years (interquartile range: 2-15); 2336 (70.9%) patients had a CCC; and 241 (7.3%) used ≥11 home medications. During preoperative evaluation, 1556 (47.2%) patients had ≥1 active health problem. After surgery, 882 (26.8%) experienced PoPD. The adjusted odds of PoPD were 1.2 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.0-1.4) for presence versus absence of an active health problem; 1.4 (95% CI: 1.0-1.9) for ≥11 vs 0 home medications; and 2.2 (95% CI: 1.7-2.9) for ≥3 vs 0 CCCs. In classification and regression tree analysis, the lowest rate of PoPD (8.6%) occurred in children without an active health problem at the preoperative evaluation; the highest rate (57.2%) occurred in children with a CCC who used ≥11 home medications.


Greater than 1 in 4 pediatric patients undergoing elective surgery experienced PoPD. Combinations of active health problems at preoperative evaluation, polypharmacy, and multimorbidity distinguished patients with a low versus high risk of PoPD.


Conflict of interest statement

POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors have indicated they have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

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