Risk factors for complications after abdominal surgery in children with sickle cell disease

Christopher W. Snyder, Bryce M. Bludevich, Raquel Gonzalez, Paul D. Danielson, Nicole M. Chandler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Abdominal surgery in children with sickle cell disease (SCD) carries an increased risk of postoperative complications. Preoperative transfusions are frequently given to decrease the risk of vasoocclusive events. However, risk factors for postoperative complications are not well-defined in the pediatric population. Methods: Pediatric patients with SCD undergoing common abdominal operations were identified from the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program–Pediatric (NSQIP-P) database from 2012 to 2018. Outcomes of interest were the incidence rates of 1) any complication or readmission, and 2) serious SCD-related complications (stroke, new onset seizure, ventilator support > 24 h postoperatively, or readmission with SCD crisis within 30 days of surgery). Patients were categorized by transfusion approach (transfusion within 48 h before surgery vs. no transfusion) and preoperative hematocrit (< 21.0, 21.0–23.9, 24.0–26.9, 27.0–29.9, ≥ 30.0). Stratified bivariate analyses and multivariable logistic regression were used to identify independent risk factors for complications. Results: A total of 813 patients met inclusion criteria. There were 470 cholecystectomy, 251 splenectomy, 39 appendectomy, and 53 combination procedures; 13% of cases were urgent or emergent. Preoperative hematocrit levels were < 21.0 in 3%, 21.0–23.9 in 10%, 24.0–26.9 in 17%, 27.0–29.9in 30%, and ≥ 30.0 in 41% of patients; 52% received perioperative transfusion. The 30-day incidences of any complication/readmission and SCD-related complications were 12% and 4%, respectively. On bivariate analyses, urgent/emergent case status was the only significant predictor of complications, carrying risk of 20% and 8% for overall and SCD-related complications, respectively; this finding persisted on multivariable logistic regression (OR 1.83, 95% CI 1.0.2–3.29, p = 0.04). Neither preoperative transfusion nor preoperative hematocrit level was associated with complication risk, although there was a trend toward higher SCD-related complications in patients with preoperative hematocrit < 21.0 (p = 0.07). Conclusion: In this large cohort of pediatric SCD patients undergoing abdominal surgery, there was no clear association between postoperative complications and the transfusion approach or the preoperative hematocrit level within the range above 21.0. Urgent/emergent surgical procedures carried a nearly two-fold higher complication risk compared to elective procedures. Future studies should prospectively evaluate preoperative transfusion approaches and compare immediate and delayed operative management to nonoperative management in this population. Level of evidence: III Retrospective review.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)711-716
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Abdominal surgery
  • Acute chest syndrome
  • Pediatric surgery
  • Postoperative complications
  • Sickle cell disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Surgery


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