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Mortality in perforated duodenal ulcer depends upon pre-operative risk: a retrospective 10-year study.INTRODUCTION: Most patients presenting with acutely perforated duodenal ulcer undergo operation, but conservative treatment may be indicated when an ulcer has spontaneously sealed with minimal/localised peritoneal irritation or when the patient's premorbid performance status is poor. We retrospectively reviewed our experience with operative and conservative management of perforated duodenal ulcers over a 10-year period and analysed outcome according to American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) score. METHODS: The records of all patients presenting with perforated duodenal ulcer to the Department of Surgery, Mayo General Hospital, between January 1998 and December 2007 were reviewed. Age, gender, co-morbidity, ASA-score, clinical presentation, mode of management, operative procedures, morbidity and mortality were considered. RESULTS: Of 76 patients included, 48 (44 operative, 4 conservative) were ASA I-III, with no mortality irrespective of treatment. Amongst 28 patients with ASA-score IV/V, mortality was 54.5% (6/11) following operative management and 52.9% (9/17) with conservative management. CONCLUSION: In patients with a perforated duodenal ulcer and ASA-score I-III, postoperative outcome is uniformly favourable. We recommend these patients have repair with peritoneal lavage performed, routinely followed postoperatively by empirical triple therapy. Given that mortality is equivalent between ASA IV/V patients whether managed operatively or conservatively, we suggest that both management options are equally justifiable.