As predictable as the leaves falling this time of year, another paper on the subject of unnecessary preoperative laboratory testing has appeared.
A group from the University of Texas Medical Branch looked at more than 73,000 elective hernia repairs in the National Surgical Quality Improvement Project (NSQIP) database. Almost 2/3 of the patients had preoperative laboratory tests. Of that group, 58.6% had a CBC, 53.5% had electrolytes, 23.7% had liver function studies, 18.7% had coagulation studies and 9.9% had all of the above. Even 54% of patients with no co-morbidities had at least one test.
An abnormal test was found in more than 60% of those tested, of the 7200 patients who had lab tests done on the day of surgery, 61.6% had at least one abnormal test including 23% with a coagulation abnormality, 41% with a chemical abnormality and 33% with an LFT abnormality. Despite these results, the scheduled surgery was done.
Tests did not predict complications in patients without co-morbidities. Obtaining a test (not necessarily an abnormal result) was associated with a higher risk of major complications (0.4% versus 0.2% p < 0.0001) but not wound complications. However, abnormal results did not predict complications.
The authors of the paper recommended that surgical societies establish guidelines for preop testing.
Continue reading... 
Extensive preoperative testing of ambulatory patients continues at the discretion of the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and probably the patient’s primary care doctor too. And the tab mounts.