Anesthesiologists caring for patients with do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders may have ethical concerns because of their resuscitative wishes and may have clinical concerns because of their known increased risk of morbidity/mortality. Patient heterogeneity and/or emphasis on mortality outcomes make previous studies among patients with DNR orders difficult to interpret. We sought to explore factors associated with morbidity and mortality among patients with DNR orders, which were stratified by surgical subgroups.
Exploratory retrospective cohort study in adult patients undergoing prespecified colorectal, vascular, and orthopedic surgeries was performed using the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program Participant Use File data from 2010 to 2013. Among patients with preoperative DNR orders (ie, active DNR order written in the patient’s chart before surgery), factors associated with 30-day mortality, increased length of stay, and inpatient death were determined via penalized regression. Unadjusted and adjusted estimates for selected variables are presented.
After selection as above, 211,420 patients underwent prespecified procedures, and of those, 2755 (1.3%) had pre-existing DNR orders and met above selection to address morbidity/mortality aims. By specialty, of these patients with a preoperative DNR, 1149 underwent colorectal, 870 vascular, and 736 orthopedic surgery. Across groups, 36.2% were male and had a mean age 79.9 years (range 21–90). The 30-day mortality was 15.4%–27.2% and median length of stay was 6–12 days. Death at discharge was 7.0%, 13.1%, and 23.0% in orthopedics, vascular, and colorectal patients with a DNR, respectively. The strongest factors associated with increased odds of 30-day mortality were preoperative septic shock in colorectal patients, preoperative ascites in vascular patients, and any requirement of mechanical ventilation at admission in orthopedic patients.
In patients with DNR orders undergoing common surgical procedures, the association of characteristics with morbidity and mortality varies in both direction and magnitude. The DNR order itself should not be the defining measure of risk.