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Effects of night surgery on postoperative mortality and morbidity: a multicentre cohort study


Background Surgery at night (incision time 17:00 to 07:00 hours) may lead to increased postoperative mortality and morbidity. Mechanisms explaining this association remain unclear.

Methods We conducted a multicentre retrospective cohort study of adult patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery with general anaesthesia at two major, competing tertiary care hospital networks. In primary analysis, we imputed missing data and determined whether exposure to night surgery affects 30-day mortality using a mixed-effects model with individual anaesthesia and surgical providers as random effects. Secondary outcomes were 30-day morbidity and the mediating effect of blood transfusion rates and provider handovers on the effect of night surgery on outcomes. We further tested for effect modification by surgical setting.

Results Among 350 235 participants in the primary imputed cohort, the mortality rate was 0.9% (n=2804/322 327) after day and 3.4% (n=940/27 908) after night surgery. Night surgery was associated with an increased risk of mortality (ORadj 1.26, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.38, p<0.001). In secondary analyses, night surgery was associated with increased morbidity (ORadj 1.41, 95% CI 1.33 to 1.48, p<0.001). The proportion of patients receiving intraoperative blood transfusion and anaesthesia handovers were higher during night-time, mediating 9.4% (95% CI 4.7% to 14.2%, p<0.001) of the effect of night surgery on 30-day mortality and 8.4% (95% CI 6.7% to 10.1%, p<0.001) of its effect on morbidity. The primary association was modified by the surgical setting (p-for-interaction<0.001), towards a greater effect in patients undergoing ambulatory/same-day surgery (ORadj 1.81, 95% CI 1.39 to 2.35) compared with inpatients (ORadj 1.17, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.34).

Conclusions Night surgery was associated with an increased risk of postoperative mortality and morbidity. The effect was independent of case acuity and was mediated by potentially preventable factors: higher blood transfusion rates and more frequent provider handovers.

  • anaesthesia
  • adverse events
  • epidemiology and detection
  • surgery
  • standards of care

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Due to the sensitive nature of the data collected for this study, requests to access the dataset from qualified researchers trained in human subjects research and confidentiality may be sent to Matthias Eikermann at

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