Importance Emergency general surgery (EGS) represents 11% of surgical admissions and 50% of surgical mortality in the United States. However, there is currently no established definition of the EGS procedures. OBJECTIVE To define a set of procedures accounting for at least 80% of the national burden of operative EGS. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS A retrospective reviewwas conducted using data from the 2008-2011 National Inpatient Sample. Adults (age,-18 years) with primary EGS diagnoses consistent with the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma definition, admitted urgently or emergently, who underwent an operative procedure within 2 days of admission were included in the analyses. Procedures were ranked to account for national mortality and complication burden. Among ranked procedures, contributions to total EGS frequency, mortality, and hospital costs were assessed. The data query and analysis were performed between November 15, 2015, and February 16, 2016.MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Overall procedure frequency, in-hospital mortality, major complications, and inpatient costs calculated per 3-digit International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification procedure codes. RESULTS The study identified 421 476 patient encounters associated with operative EGS, weighted to represent 2.1 million nationally over the 4-year study period. The overall mortality rate was 1.23%(95%CI, 1.18%-1.28%), the complication rate was 15.0% (95%CI, 14.6%-15.3%), and mean cost per admission was $13 241 (95%CI, $12 957-$13 525). After ranking the 35 procedure groups by contribution to EGS mortality and morbidity burden, a final set of 7 operative EGS procedures were identified, which collectively accounted for 80.0%of procedures, 80.3%of deaths, 78.9%of complications, and 80.2%of inpatient costs nationwide. These 7 procedures included partial colectomy, small-bowel resection, cholecystectomy, operative management of peptic ulcer disease, lysis of peritoneal adhesions, appendectomy, and laparotomy. Conclusions And Relevance Only 7 procedures account for most admissions, deaths, complications, and inpatient costs attributable to the 512 079 EGS procedures performed in the United States each year. National quality benchmarks and cost reduction efforts should focus on these common, complicated, and costly EGS procedures.