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Measuring outcomes after major abdominal surgery during hospitalization: reliability and validity of the Postoperative Morbidity Survey

Simon J Davies1*, James Francis1, Jonathan Dilley1, R Jonathan T Wilson1, Simon J Howell2 and Victoria Allgar3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anaesthesia, York Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Wigginton Road, York YO31 8HE, UK

2 Academic Unit of Anaesthesia, Leeds General Infirmary, Great George Street, Leeds, LS1 3EX, UK

3 Hull York Medical School, The University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, UK

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Perioperative Medicine 2013, 2:1  doi:10.1186/2047-0525-2-1

Published: 4 February 2013



Measurement of outcomes after major abdominal surgery has traditionally focused on mortality, however the low incidence in elective surgery makes this measure a poor comparator. The Postoperative Morbidity Survey (POMS) prospectively assesses short-term morbidity, and may have clinical utility both as a core outcome measure in clinical trials and quality of care. The POMS has been shown to be a valid outcome measure in a mixed surgical population, however it has not been studied in patients undergoing major abdominal surgery. This study assessed the inter-rater reliability and validity of the POMS in patients undergoing major abdominal surgery.


Patients undergoing elective major abdominal surgery were visited on postoperative day 1 until discharge by two novice observers who administered the POMS in order to assess inter-rater reliability. Subjects who had previously had the POMS performed prospectively on postoperative days 3 and 5 were identified from a database. The pattern and prevalence of morbidity was analyzed against hospital length of stay (LOS) in order to validate the POMS in this patient group.


Fifty one patients were recruited to the inter-rater reliability study giving a total of 263 POMS assessments. Inter-rater reliability showed a 97.7% agreement with a κ coefficient of 0.912 (95% CI: 0.842 to 0.982). On domain analysis percentage agreement was lowest in the gastrointestinal domain (87.5%), whilst correlation was lowest in the wound (κ: 0.04; 95% CI: −1.0 to 1.0) and hematological domains (κ: 0.378; 95% CI: 0.035 to 0.722). All other domains showed at least substantial agreement. POMS assessments were analyzed for postoperative days 3 (n = 258) and 5 (n = 362). The absence or presence of morbidity as measured by the POMS was associated with a hospital LOS of 6 (IQR: 4 to 7) vs. 11 (IQR: 8 to 15) days on postoperative day 3 (P <0.0001), and 7 (IQR: 6 to 10) vs. 13 (IQR: 9 to 19) days on postoperative day 5 (P <0.0001). The presence of any morbidity on postoperative day 5 conferred an odds ratio for a prolonged hospital LOS of 11.9 (95% CI: 5.02 to 11.92).


This study shows that the POMS is both a reliable and valid measure of short-term postoperative morbidity in patients undergoing major abdominal surgery.

Major surgery; Morbidity; Postoperative morbidity survey; Postoperative outcome