Surgeons create Frankenstein numbers?

The BBC News website and Radio 4 news both led this morning on the Royal College of Surgeons' report on emergency surgery. The BBC web site states that
'A report by the college highlights figures that show that about 170,000 patients undergo emergency abdominal operations each year. Of these, 100,000 will develop complications and 25,000 of these patients will die.'

The actual RCS report, on the other hand, says that ‘In the UK, 170,000 patients undergo higher risk non-cardiac surgery each year[4] Of these patients, 100,000 will develop significant complications resulting in over 25,000 deaths.’

So first of all the BBC got it wrong in saying that the 170,000 were emergency abdominal operations. Maybe this was a problem with the RCS Press Release, which does not seem to be on their website.

But where do these numbers come from? Reference 4 of the RCS report makes no mention of these figures. It does refer to this paper but I could not find these numbers there either.

This 25% mortality may very well be reasonable - perhaps estimated from NCEPOD data - but it would nice to be able to check. More or Less use the phrase 'zombie numbers' for those that refuse to go away in spite of repeated attacks. Perhaps the surgeons, rather appropriately, have created a Frankenstein number - one that is patched together, takes on a life of its own, but nobody can work out where it comes from. It may, with time, even turn into a zombie number.

Comments

Rachel Pearce's picture

I am also very wary of the comparisons made, especially with the US, where the sickest people lose their jobs and are therefore uninsured, and so won't get surgery at all. So I doubt that the rates of comorbidities etc. are the same in the two populations.
kevin's picture

I see the BBC have fixed the Web story now (presumably having read this!). It says,"A report by the college highlights figures that show that about 170,000 patients undergo non-cardiac emergency operations each year. Of those, 100,000 will develop complications and 25,000 of these patients will die." So at least it matches what the RCS report says.