Pneumonia is a common lower respiratory tract infection (LRI) and the leading cause of pediatric hospitalization in the United States. Given its frequency, children with pneumonia may require surgery during their hospital course. This poses serious anesthetic and surgical challenges because preoperative pulmonary status is among the most important risk factors for postoperative complications. Although recent adult data indicated that preoperative pneumonia was associated with poor surgical outcomes, comparable data in children are lacking. Therefore, our objective was to investigate the association of preoperative pneumonia with postoperative mortality and morbidity in children.
Using the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database, we assembled a retrospective cohort of children (<18 years) who underwent inpatient surgery between 2012 and 2015. Our primary outcome was the time to all-cause 30-day postoperative mortality that we evaluated using Cox proportional hazards regression models. For the secondary outcomes, including 30-day postoperative morbidity events, we used Fine-Gray models to account for competing risk by mortality. We also evaluated the association of preoperative pneumonia with duration of postoperative mechanical ventilation and postoperative hospital length of stay. We used propensity score weighting methods to adjust for potential confounding factors, whose distributions differ across the pneumonia groups.
Among 153,242 children who underwent inpatient surgery, 0.7% (n = 867) had preoperative pneumonia. Compared with those without preoperative pneumonia, children with preoperative pneumonia had a higher risk of mortality throughout the 30-day postoperative period (hazard ratio [HR], 4.10; 95% confidence intervals [CI], 2.42–6.97; P < .001). Although not statistically significant, children with preoperative pneumonia were twice as likely to develop cardiovascular complications compared to children without preoperative pneumonia (HR, 2.10; 95% CI, 1.17–3.75; P = .012). Furthermore, children with preoperative pneumonia had longer duration of postoperative ventilation (incidence rate ratio, 1.47; 95% CI, 1.26–1.71; P < .001). Finally, children with preoperative pneumonia were estimated to be 56% less likely to be discharged within the 30 days following surgery, compared to children without preoperative pneumonia (HR, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.40–0.47; P < .001).
Preoperative pneumonia was strongly associated with increased incidence of postoperative mortality and complications in children. Clinicians should make concerted efforts to screen for preoperative pneumonia and consider whether proceeding with surgery is the most expedient course of action. Our findings may be helpful in preoperative discussions with parents of children with preoperative pneumonia for risk stratification and postoperative resource allocation purposes.