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Postoperative pulmonary complications (PPC) are well-known after major thoracic and abdominal surgery and are associated with increased mortality, morbidity and prolonged hospital stay. There is no consensus in the literature regarding risk factors for PPC.
To optimize care and prevent PPC, we aimed at identifying the most important preoperative risk factors.
The Delphi method was used as a consensus-seeking approach. A total of 22 health professionals with clinical experience within the field of thoracic or abdominal surgery were invited to participate in the panel. Risk factors identified in the literature were commented on and rated by the panel in a three-round Delphi-process.
The Delphi panel reached consensus on 20 preoperative risk factors for PPC for patients undergoing elective thoracic or abdominal surgery. The risk factors were divided into two categories: related to type of surgery or to the patients' preoperative status. Furthermore, they were categorized as high, moderate or low risk factors. This list of risk factors is considered a qualified starting point for development of a risk assessment tool.
A systematic pre-operative identification of patients at high risk of PPC could be useful to facilitate an early preventive preoperative and postoperative intervention and to allocate proper resources to high risk patients.