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Emergency abdominal surgery in the elderly: a ten-year experience


The mean age of the population is increasing in the western countries. In particular, in Italy 14% of the population are over 70 years old. The rising of the older population is associated to the increase of the number of emergency abdominal surgical procedures. Postoperative morbidity and mortality are strictly dependent on comorbidities. The aim of this study was to analyze morbidity and mortality in older patients who underwent emergency abdominal surgery.

Materials and methods

We retrospectively analyzed a single surgeon's (G.C.) 10-year experience. Between 1997 and 2008, 361 patients underwent emergency abdominal surgery. Trauma and rupture of the abdominal aorta were not included. The patients were divided in two groups. Group A included patients aging between 70–79 (258 pts) and group B included patients over 80 year-old. Univariate analysis was used to evaluate age, the interval between onset of symptoms and admission, the interval between admission and surgery, the diagnosis, the type of surgical procedure and the presence of comorbidities.


The overall mortality was 21.6% (78 pts, 19.7% in group A and 26.2% in group B, p = ns). Morbidity was 38% (138 pts, 36.8% in group A and 40.7% in group B, p = ns).


The study shows that the age does not influence morbidity and mortality in older patients who underwent emergency abdominal surgery. Morbidity and mortality, instead, are strictly associated to the delay in diagnosis and to the presence of comorbidities.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to G Costa.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Costa, G., Nigri, G., Tierno, S. et al. Emergency abdominal surgery in the elderly: a ten-year experience. BMC Geriatr 9, A53 (2009).

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  • Public Health
  • Surgical Procedure
  • Univariate Analysis
  • Abdominal Surgery
  • Western Country