Mortality following perforated peptic ulcer in Denmark is nearly 30%. Delayed surgery is a prognostic factor, but only half of the patients are operated within six hours of perforation - a predefined quality of care criterion in The Danish National Indicator Project. A clinical audit was conducted to investigate possible reasons.
All patients (n = 89) surgically treated for peptic ulcer perforation in six university hospitals in Denmark over a period of one year were included. The association between a number of predefined variables related to the internal organisation of health care, the patient's pathological picture and the quality of treatment given, and a preoperative delay of at least 6 hours was examined using modified Poisson regression analyses.
The following variables were associated with a preoperative delay = 6 hours: 1) out of hospital versus in hospital perforation (adjusted relative risk (RR) 1.87; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.86-4.05), 2) no classical clinical symptoms of ulcer perforation (adjusted RR with peritonism 0.32; 95% CI 0.14-0.73), 3) first physician attendance later than median time, i.e. > 25 minutes after debut (adjusted RR 2.78; 95% CI 1.32-5.87), 4) first attendance not by senior physician (adjusted RR 1.97; 95% CI 0.95-4.05) and/or senior physician not called in (adjusted RR 2.53; 95% CI 1.12-5.75), and 5) oxygen saturation not monitored upon admission (adjusted RR 1.45; 95% CI 0.73-2.91).
Although of limited size, this audit suggests that long preoperative delay in patients with peptic ulcer perforation is associated with factors related to both the internal organisation of the healthcare system, the patient's pathological picture, and the quality of diagnosis and treatment given.