People With Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders Nearly 3 Times as Likely to Die After Surgery

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A new study published in the Archives of Surgery, most likely the first of its kind, suggests that patients with do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders are significantly more likely than other patients to die soon after surgical procedures. Part of the explanation is that people with DNR orders are more likely to have serious or life-threatening medical conditions in the first place—but a second possibility is that surgeons don't treat DNR patients as well or as aggressively as other patients. Here's WebMD Health News with more details:

People with do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders may be more than twice as likely to die soon after surgery, regardless of the urgency of the procedure or health status before surgery.

A new study shows 23% of people with DNR orders died within 30 days after surgery compared with 8% of similarly matched surgery patients without DNR orders. They were also more likely to suffer serious complications and have longer hospital stays.

Researchers say it's the first study to look at the effect of DNR status on surgical results. For every type of surgical procedure analyzed, they found people with DNR orders fared worse than those without them.

Experts say to a certain extent, the results are not surprising because people with DNR orders tend to be much sicker to begin with and would be expected to fare worse after surgery. But the study also raises the question of whether a DNR order changes the way doctors and nurses treat patients.

"If I were a patient, I might worry from this study that having a DNR on my chart might lead to less aggressive treatment," says Clarence Braddock, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and associate dean of medical education at Stanford School of Medicine.

Read the full story at WebMD Health News.

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Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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