Preoperative risk assessment—from routine tests to individualized investigation

Andreas B Böhmer, Frank Wappler, Bernd Zwissler
Deutsches Ärzteblatt International 2014 June 20, 111 (25): 437-45; quiz 446

BACKGROUND: Risk assessment in adults who are about to undergo elective surgery (other than cardiac and thoracic procedures) involves history-taking, physical examination, and ancillary studies performed for individual indications. Further testing beyond the history and physical examination is often of low predictive value for perioperative complications.

METHOD: This review is based on pertinent articles that were retrieved by a selective search in the Medline and Cochrane Library databases and on the consensus-derived recommendations of the German specialty societies.

RESULTS: The history and physical examination remain the central components of preoperative risk assessment. Advanced age is not, in itself, a reason for ancillary testing. Laboratory testing should be performed only if relevant organ disease is known or suspected, or to assess the potential side effects of pharmacotherapy. Electrocardiography as a screening test seems to add little relevant information, even in patients with stable heart disease. A chest X-ray should be obtained only if a disease is suspected whose detection would have clinical consequences in the perioperative period.

CONCLUSION: In preoperative risk assessment, the history and physical examination are the strongest predictors of perioperative complications. Ancillary tests are indicated on an individual basis if the history and physical examination reveal that significant disease may be present.

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