The Royal College of Surgeons has said it is very alarmed and concerned at the findings of a Lancet study, which suggested Irish patients have a higher risk of death after surgery.

Chief Executive Professor Cathal Kelly said the college had taken a "twin-track" approach to the findings.

A national audit of post-surgery mortality is to be established from 2014.

He also said a retrospective study has been carried out by the RCSI of the cohort of patients identified in the study.

"We're currently going back to the very same hospitals, at the very same time period, looking at outcomes in depth and doing a root cause analysis.

"We intend to publish the study this year and make public any recommendations," he said.

HSE National Director for Quality and Patient Safety Dr Philip Crowley also said he was alarmed by the study.

However, he said that the research was a "snapshot" of one week, and it was important to look at post-surgery mortality over a longer timeframe.

He also said the study did not include any private hospitals, and this was important to note as a lot of elective surgery takes place in private hospitals.

"You can't compare a very sick, dying patient who has a surgical procedure near death with someone who comes in perfectly well for an elective operation," he said.

Dr Crowley said the Health Service Executive did not have the figure for the amount of people who died following surgery last year.

He said that although the mortality rate was important, it was more important to find out why people were dying.