Background: Postoperative complications increase patient morbidity and mortality and are a target for quality improvement programs. The goal of this study was to review the world's literature on postoperative complications in general surgery patients and try to examine the effect of these complications on patient-centered outcomes. Methods: A comprehensive search of the current literature identified 18 studies on the topic of postoperative complications in general surgery patients. Results: Postoperative complications are common in general surgery patients and contribute to increased mortality, length of stay, and need for an increased level of care at discharge (decline in disposition). Conclusions: Although the concept of patient-centered outcomes is not new, it has not been applied to postoperative complications. It is likely that the effect of complications on length of hospital stay and postoperative discharge reflects an impact of complications on these patient-centered outcomes. Future studies should consider the effect of complications on those outcomes that are most important to the individual patient. © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.