Risk Factors for Thirty-Day Morbidity and Mortality Following Knee Arthroscopy
A Review of 12,271 Patients from the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program Database
Christopher T. Martin, MD; Andrew J. Pugely, MD; Yubo Gao, PhD; Brian R. Wolf, MD


Background: Knee arthroscopy is among the most common orthopaedic surgical procedures. However, the incidence and risk factors for postsurgical morbidity and mortality remain poorly defined.

Methods: The American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program prospectively collects thirty-day morbidity and mortality data from more than 258 hospitals around the United States. We used Current Procedural Terminology codes to retrospectively query the database and identified 12,271 cases of elective knee arthroscopy performed from January 1, 2005, to December 31, 2010. Postoperative complications were divided into categories of minor morbidity, major morbidity or mortality, or any complication. The potential risk factors for complications were analyzed with use of univariate and multivariate analyses.

Results: The overall incidence of any complication was 1.6% (199 patients). The major morbidity was 0.76% (ninety-three patients), which included one patient death (0.008%), and the minor morbidity was 0.86% (106 patients). The most frequent major complication was a return to the operating room. The most common minor complication was deep venous thrombosis or thrombophlebitis. The risk factors identified in the univariate analysis for any complication included black race, prior operation within thirty days, American Society of Anesthesiologists class, and operative time of >1.5 hours as compared with ≤1.5 hours (p < 0.05 for each). The independent risk factors identified in the multivariate analysis for any complication included black race (odds ratio, 1.81 [95% confidence interval, 1.13 to 2.89]), prior operation within thirty days (odds ratio, 6.33 [95% confidence interval, 1.45 to 27.66]), operative time of >1.5 hours (odds ratio, 1.84 [95% confidence interval, 1.21 to 2.78]), and age of forty to sixty-five years (odds ratio, 1.46 [95% confidence interval, 1.01 to 2.11]).

Conclusions: The incidence of complication following elective knee arthroscopy is low. The data presented here should be useful for providing prognostic information to patients during informed consent. Surgeons should be encouraged to minimize operative time whenever possible, and may wish to delay elective arthroscopy in patients who have had other recent surgical procedures.

Level of Evidence: Prognostic Level II. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.


  • Investigation performed at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa

  • Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. One or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

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