13 February 2015
Life expectancy gap reflected in NT surgical
Friday 13 February, 2015
A gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal Australians and
non-Aboriginal Australians is reflected in statistics from the
Northern Territory Audit of Surgical Mortality (NTASM), according
to an article in the latest issue of the ANZ Journal of
The article points to a large gap of 12 years for age at death
between the two groups admitted as surgical patients in the
Northern Territory, with Aboriginal persons suffering significantly
more co-morbidities such as diabetes, renal and hepatic
A study was conducted using retrospective data from the NTASM,
administered by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS),
of outcome measures including causes of death, coexisting factors
and deficiencies of care.
According to the article, results were comparable between rates
of infection and all-cause trauma and there were no significant
differences in rates of complications, unplanned returns to
theatre, delays in surgery or whether the surgeon considered
management could have been improved.
The study audited 190 deaths between June 2010 and June 2013, of
which 72 were Aboriginal. It showed that Aboriginals died at a
younger 53 years of age compared to 65 years for non-Aboriginal
Australians mainly in general surgery.
A high rate of infection was reported, however this was expected
as the article said the NT had the highest rates of necrotizing
fasciitis in the world. The article also said that it could also be
explained by the incidence of factors that predispose the condition
including diabetes, malnutrition, alcohol abuse and smoking.
An editorial reflection of the study from Chair of the RACS
Board of Surgical Education and Training, Mr Phil Truskett said
that the evidence could not be ignored.
"Indigenous health has become a major focus for our College in
Australia and New Zealand. It is not just about equity of access
for surgery," Mr Truskett said.
"As a professional body, we cannot ignore this alarming
discrepancy in life expectancy in our Indigenous population - we
need to play a constructive advocacy role," he said.
the Editorial from Phil Truskett here
the full article here
Download full media release (PDF 58KB)