Statistical Chances of Dying During Surgery

Published July 27, 2020
Surgeons operating patient

What are your chances of dying from surgery? They are much less than you might think. Explore the statistics of your chances of dying from surgery along with the surgeries with the highest mortality rates.

What Are the Chances of Dying From Surgery?

Getting any surgery can be a scary time. After signing all the liability paperwork, you might start to wonder what the actual likelihood of dying is. However, that is a hard question to answer. The exact number for your risk will vary based on the type of surgery, your age, and overall health, to name a few. However, in one study, the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that the risk for death in non-cardiac inpatient surgeries of individuals 45 and over was only 1.8%. This study included over 40,000 patients and the majority of those deaths happened in the hospital.

Types of Surgery

One of the biggest factors when it comes to surgical risk is the type of surgery. As you can imagine, brain and heart problem surgeries carry a much higher risk than something like minor dental surgery. Explore different surgeries and statistical risks associated with them.

Surgeries With the Highest Mortality Rate

Death rates for major surgeries are variable and depend on your condition when you go into surgery. Complex surgeries, where your heart needs to be stopped to perform the surgery, or emergency surgeries are among surgeries with the highest mortality rate. For example:

  • Patients undergoing surgery for an aortic dissection have a 22.1% in-hospital mortality rate.
  • Major surgeries of the head or opening up the skull are risky. According to the Journal of Neurosurgery, cranial decompression surgery carries a 26.4% mortality rate.

What Are the Chances of Dying From Plastic Surgery?

Out-patient, elective, and cosmetic surgeries are among those carrying lower risks for patients. However, this does not mean they are risk-free. Overall, your chances of dying from a cosmetic procedure were less than .002%, according to the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in 2008. Another study in 2018, pointed out the cosmetic surgery with the most risk is the abdominoplasty, aka a tummy tuck.

What Are the Chances of Dying From Anesthesia?

While the surgical procedure itself has risks, so does the anesthesia used to put you 'under' during the procedure. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, there are several factors to think about when it comes to your anesthesiology risks. These include age, obesity, smoking, sleep apnea, and surgery awareness. However, the overall risk of dying from anesthesia is 1 in 185,000, which is much less than 1%.

Knowing Your Health History

While medical journals can tell you all types of different surgery mortality rate statistics, knowing your own personal risks come down to the surgical necessity and your health history. Therefore, when you fill out your medical history information, you'll want to be as honest as possible. Your surgeon will also possibly take blood work and use their records to help you have the best possible outcome. If you've had issues with a specific medicine or anesthesia before, it's vitally important to include this to avoid complications.

Doctor explaining the knee replacement

Common Surgery Complications

The actual surgery itself has risks, but surgery complications can also cause death. Common surgery complications noted by the OakBend Medical Center include:

  • Anesthesia complications - Such as severe allergic reactions
  • Hemorrhage - Loss of blood from the surgical site
  • Blood clots - Because your body is increasing its clotting ability, blood clots can form in the legs; it's important to catch these before they break off and move to lungs or heart
  • Wound infection - An infection in the surgical site
  • Lung infections - Happen from the combination of laying down and anesthesia medications

Understanding Your Surgery Risk

If you want to understand your particular surgery risk, you can do that. Why? Because the American College of Surgeons created a handy calculator you can use to tailor the risks to your health, surgery, and age. To use the calculator, you simply answer the comprehensive health questions covering your age, sex, functionality, medical conditions, procedure, and even whether you use a ventilator or are independent. The calculator breaks down the statistical percentage of risks for complications, infections, sepsis, and even death.

Risks During Surgery

No surgery is without risks. However, the benefits can outweigh the risks when it comes to your quality of life. Now that you know the facts, the decision is in your hands.

Statistical Chances of Dying During Surgery