Journal Article

Is low serum albumin associated with postoperative complications in patients undergoing oesophagectomy for oesophageal malignancies?

Sean L. Goh, Ramesh P. De Silva, Kumud Dhital and Rohan M. Gett

in Interactive CardioVascular and Thoracic Surgery

Volume 20, issue 1, pages 107-113
Published in print January 2015 | ISSN: 1569-9293
Published online September 2014 | e-ISSN: 1569-9285 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/icvts/ivu324
Is low serum albumin associated with postoperative complications in patients undergoing oesophagectomy for oesophageal malignancies?

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  • Surgical Oncology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Anatomy
  • Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics
  • Cardiovascular Medicine

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A best evidence topic was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was: in patients undergoing oesophagectomy for oesophageal malignancy, is low serum albumin associated with postoperative complications? Altogether, 87 papers were found using the reported search, of which 16 demonstrated the best evidence to answer the clinical question. The authors, journal, date and country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes and results of these papers are tabulated. This paper includes 2 level 2 papers, 12 level 3 papers and 2 level 4 papers. All the papers compared either all or some of the following postoperative complications: mortality, morbidity, anastomotic leak, respiratory and non-respiratory complications, and length of hospital stay. Eleven of the 16 papers found an association between low serum albumin and postoperative complications. Of these, one study showed that low serum albumin combined with low fibrinogen levels (FA score) was predictive of postoperative recurrence of oesophageal cancer. Another study showed that when combined with white cell count and C-reactive protein (CRP, NUn score), serum albumin had a high diagnostic accuracy for major complications after postoperative day 3. The largest study compared the in-hospital mortality in 7227 patients who underwent oesophageal surgery for malignancy. The percentage of in-hospital mortality was associated with low serum albumin (<15.0 vs >35.0 g/l, 21.0 vs 11.3%, P <0.001). Five of the 16 papers found no significant association between low serum albumin and postoperative complications. Of these papers, one showed that low serum albumin was not an independent risk factor, while four others found no association between low serum albumin with respiratory complications, anastomotic leak and postoperative mortality. Instead, these studies found other factors responsible for postoperative complications such as: CRP, smoking, disease duration, malnutrition and low T-cell levels. Taken together, while low serum albumin is associated with postoperative complications, opinion regarding the prognostic value of low serum albumin and nutritional support remains conflicted. Because of the confounding factors encountered in these studies, the clinician should consider the finding of low serum albumin in patients, together with disease and surgical factors to provide optimal care for these patients.

Keywords: Oesophageal cancer; Oesophagectomy; Serum albumin; Perioperative care; Postoperative complications

Journal Article.  3150 words. 

Subjects: Surgical Oncology ; Gastroenterology ; Anatomy ; Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics ; Cardiovascular Medicine

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