Malnutrition is known to negatively affect outcomes after arthroplasty, hip fracture, and spine surgery. Although distal radius fracture surgery may be considered in a similar patient cohort, the effect of malnutrition in this scenario is unknown. We hypothesized that admission serum albumin level, as a marker for malnutrition, would correlate with the rate of postoperative complications following surgery for distal radius fracture.
We performed a retrospective cohort study of the American College of Surgeons National Surgery Quality Improvement database. Patients undergoing open reduction and internal fixation of a distal radius fracture were identified using Current Procedural Terminology codes. We excluded patients who were septic at presentation, were multiply injured, or had open fractures. We collected patient demographics, length of stay, 30-day complications, reoperation, and readmission rates. We performed multivariable linear regression analysis controlling for age, sex, body mass index, operative time, discharge destination, and modified Frailty Index score.
We identified 1,989 patients (mean age, 56 years; range, 18-90 years) with available albumin levels, and 14.7% had hypoalbuminemia (albumin, < 3.5 g/dL). Multivariable regression revealed that malnourished patients had higher rates of postoperative complications (6.5% vs 1.3%; odds ratio [OR] 4.88; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 2.47-9.66). Specifically, these patients had increased rates of Clavien-Dindo IV (life-threatening) complications (2.4% vs 0%), readmission (7.2% vs 2%; OR, 3.37; 95% CI, 1.88-6.03), and mortality (1.7% vs 0.1%; OR, 9.23; 95% CI, 1.55-54.87). Malnourished patients had significantly longer length of stay (3.55 vs 0.73 days). Albumin concentration was inversely associated with risk of death (OR, 0.12; 95% CI, 0.03-0.52).
Malnutrition, indicated by albumin less than 3.5 g/dL, is a powerful predictor of uncommon, but important, postoperative complications, including mortality, following surgery for distal radius fracture. Evaluation of preoperative albumin level may, therefore, help surgeons provide individualized counseling and more accurately stratify the risk of patients.