J Surg Res. 2020 Aug 17;257:107-117. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2020.06.031. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Necrotizing soft-tissue infections (NSTIs) encompass a group of severe, life-threatening diseases with high morbidity and mortality. Evidence suggests advanced age is associated with worse outcomes. To date, no large data sets exist describing outcomes in older individuals, and risk factor identification is lacking.
METHODS: Retrospective data were obtained from the 2015 Medicare 100% sample. Included in the analysis were those aged ≥65 y with a primary diagnosis of an NSTI (gas gangrene, necrotizing fasciitis, cutaneous gangrene, or Fournier's gangrene). Risk factors for in-hospital mortality and discharge disposition were examined. Continuous variables were assessed using central tendency, t-tests, and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests. Categorical variables were assessed using the chi-squared and Fisher's exact tests. Statistical significance was defined as P < 0.05.
RESULTS: 1427 patient records were reviewed. 59% of patients were male, and the overall mean age was 75.4±8.6 y. 1385 (97.0%) patients required emergency surgery for their NSTI diagnosis. The overall mortality was 5.3%. Several underlying comorbidities were associated with higher rates of mortality including cancer (OR: 3.50, P = 0.0009), liver disease (OR: 2.97, P = 0.03), and kidney disease (OR: 2.15, P = 0.01). While associated with high in-hospital mortality, these diagnoses were not associated with a difference in the rate of discharge to home compared with skilled nursing or rehab. Overall, patients discharged to skilled nursing facilities or rehab had higher rates of underlying comorbidities than patients who were discharged home (3 or more comorbid illness 84.3% versus 68.6%, P < 0.0001); however, no individual comorbid illness was associated with discharge location.
CONCLUSIONS: In our Medicare data set, we identified several medical comorbidities that are associated with increased rates of in-hospital mortality. Patients with underlying cancers had the highest odds of increased mortality. The effect on outcomes of the potentially immunosuppressive cancer treatments in these patients is unknown. These data suggest that patients with underlying illnesses, especially cancer, kidney disease, or liver disease have higher mortalities and are more likely to be discharged to skilled nursing facilities or rehab. It is unclear why these illnesses were associated with these worse outcomes while others including diabetes and heart disease were not. These data suggest that these particular comorbid illnesses may have special prognostic implications, although further analysis is necessary to identify the causative factors.