Pre-operative psoas major measurement compared to P-POSSUM as a prognostic indicator in over-80s undergoing emergency laparotomy

  • Gregory Simpson
  • Alexander Parker
  • Philip Hopley
  • Jeremy Wilson
  • Conor MageeEmail author
Original Article



Emergency laparotomy in patients over the age of 80 is associated with high morbidity and mortality. Accurate risk prediction in this patient population is desirable. Sarcopenia has been shown to be associated with outcome in multiple clinical settings and the psoas major muscle as measured on computed tomography (CT) imaging has been demonstrated as a marker of sarcopenia. We aim to assess the use of psoas major measurement on pre-operative CT as a prognostic indicator in over-80s undergoing emergency laparotomy and compare this measurement to P-POSSUM.


A retrospective interrogation of the prospectively collected National Emergency Laparotomy Database including all over-80s undergoing emergency laparotomy between January 2014 and September 2016 was conducted. Demographic, operative data and P-POSSUM data were collected and analysed. Computed tomography (CT) images were accessed and analysed, and cross-sectional areas of psoas major and the corresponding lumbar vertebral body at the level of the L3 inferior end plate were calculated. The ratio of psoas major-to-L3 cross-sectional area (PM:L3) was calculated for each patient. Mann–Whitney U test and receiver-operating characteristics (ROC) curves were used for statistical analysis.


One hundred and three over-80s underwent emergency laparotomy. Male:female ratio was 60:43. Median age was 84 years (range 80–98 years). 30-day mortality was 19.4%.90-day mortality was 25.2%. Median PM:L3 ratio in patients who died as an inpatient was 0.3 and PM:L3 ratio in patients who survived to discharge was 0.52 (p < 0.0001). Median PM:L3 ratio in patient who died within 30 days post-op was 0.28 and 0.48 in those patients who survived to 30 days (p < 0.0001). Median PM:L3 ratio in patient who died within 90 days post-op was 0.28 and 0.51 in those patients who survived to 90 days (p < 0.0001). ROC analysis gave an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.85 for in-patient mortality, 0.86 for 30-day mortality, and 0.88 for 90-day mortality. ROC analysis for P-POSSUM in this data set demonstrated an AUC of 0.51 for in-patient mortality and 0.75 for 30- and 90-day mortality.


CT imaging of the abdomen and pelvis is routinely used in over-80s prior to emergency laparotomy making PM:L3 calculation feasible for the majority of patients in this group. PM:L3 ratio is a useful prognostic indicator for prediction of mortality in patients over the age of 80. PM:L3 is superior to the P-POSSUM score in this series.


Emergency laparotomy Sarcopenia Frailty Psoas major dimensions 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Mr Gregory Simpson states that he has no conflict of interest. Mr Alex Parker states that he has no conflict of interest. Mr Philip Hopley states that he has no conflict of interest. Mr Jeremy Wilson states that he has no conflict of interest. Mr Conor Magee states that he has no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

For this type of study, formal consent is not required.

Informed consent

Institutional review board and informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wirral University Teaching HospitalsWirralUK

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