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Pregnancy Doesn't Make General Surgery More Dangerous: Study

Complications, death rates roughly the same as for non-pregnant women

WEDNESDAY, May 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Being pregnant does not raise a woman's risk for death or complications after undergoing general surgery, a new study finds.

"Pregnant patients undergoing emergency and non-emergency general surgery do not appear to have elevated rates of [illness or death]," Dr. Robert Meguid, of the University of Colorado, and colleagues wrote. "Therefore, general surgery appears to be as safe in pregnant as it is in non-pregnant women," the researchers concluded.

For the study, the investigators looked at more than 2,700 pregnant women in the United States who had general surgery between 2006 and 2011, and compared them with nearly 517,000 women who were not pregnant when they had general surgery.

Pregnant women were more likely than non-pregnant women to have inpatient surgery (75 percent versus 60 percent, respectively) and more likely to have emergency surgery (50.5 percent versus 13 percent, respectively), according to the report published online May 13 in the journal JAMA Surgery.

The researchers found that death rates within 30 days after surgery were 0.4 percent for pregnant women and 0.3 percent for those who weren't pregnant. The overall complication rate in the 30 days after surgery was 6.6 percent for pregnant women and 7.4 percent for those who weren't pregnant.

There were no significant differences in the rates of the 21 complications examined in the study, the findings showed.

"These findings support previous reports that pregnant patients who present with acute surgical disease should undergo the procedure if delay in definitive care will lead to progression of disease," the study concluded.

About one in 500 pregnant women undergo general surgery, according to background information in the study.

More information

The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion outlines how to have a healthy pregnancy.

SOURCE: JAMA Surgery, news release, May 13, 2015
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