Perioperative morbidity and mortality of cardiothoracic surgery in patients with a do-not-resuscitate order

Bryan G. Maxwell, Robert L. Lobato, Molly B. Cason, Jim K. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders are often active in patients withmultiple comorbidities and a short natural life expectancy, but limited information exists as to how often these patients undergo high-risk operations and of the perioperative outcomes in this population. Methods: Using comprehensive inpatient administrative data from the Public Discharge Data file (years 2005 through 2010) of the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, which includes a dedicated variable recording DNR status, we identified cohorts of DNR patients who underwent major cardiac or thoracic operations and compared themto age- and procedure-matched comparison cohorts. The primary study outcome was in-hospital mortality. Results: DNR status was not uncommon in cardiac (n = 2;678, 1.1% of all admissions for cardiac surgery, age 71:6 ± 15:9 years) and thoracic (n = 3;129, 3.7% of all admissions for thoracic surgery, age 73:8 ± 13:6 years) surgical patient populations. Relative to controls, patients who were DNR experienced significantly greater inhospital mortality after cardiac (37.5% vs. 11.2%, p < 0:0001) and thoracic (25.4% vs. 6.4%) operations. DNR status remained an independent predictor of in-hospital mortality onmultivariate analysis after adjustment for baseline and comorbid conditions in both the cardiac (OR 4.78, 95% confidence interval 4.21-5.41, p < 0:0001) and thoracic (OR 6.11, 95% confidence interval 5.37-6.94, p < 0:0001) cohorts. Conclusions: DNR status is associated with worse outcomes of cardiothoracic surgery even when controlling for age, race, insurance status, and serious comorbid disease. DNR status appears to be a marker of substantial perioperative risk, and may warrant substantial consideration when framing discussions of surgical risk and benefit, resource utilization, and biomedical ethics surrounding end-of-life care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Advanced directive
  • Cardiothoracic surgery
  • DNR
  • Do not attempt resuscitation
  • Do not resuscitate
  • Do-not-resuscitate
  • Morbidity and mortality
  • PDD
  • Surgical mortality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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