The Mutation error in Oracle Database Triggers

March 23, 2004




The Mutating table error is a well-known problem encountered in development; most developers have come across this error.



ORA-04091: table <tablename> is mutating, 
	trigger/function may not see it 


The basic reason for this error is the way Oracle manages a read consistent view of data. The error is encountered when a row-level trigger accesses the same table on which it is based, while executing. The table is said to be mutating. Mutation will not occur if a single record is inserted in the table (using VALUES clause). If bulk insertion is done or data is inserted from another table mutation will occur.



The mutating error is not only encountered during queries, but also for insert, updates and deletes present in the trigger. Below is a table that explains the various transaction scenarios that involves a trigger and whether it is prone to generate the mutating error. The OPERATION column explains the DML activity being performed and the TYPE column lists the type of trigger created and the execution level.




Case 1: When Trigger on table refers the same table: 
----------------------------------------------------------------- 
OPERATION       TYPE                        MUTATING? 
----------------------------------------------------------------- 
insert          before/statement-level      No 
insert          after/statement-level       No 
update          before/statement-level      No 
update          after/statement-level       No 
delete          before/statement-level      No 
delete          after/statement-level       No 

insert          before/row-level            Single row   Multi-row 
                                            No           Yes 
insert          after/row-level             Yes 
update          before/row-level            Yes 
update          after/row-level             Yes 
delete          before/row-level            Yes 
delete          after/row-level             Yes 
----------------------------------------------------------------- 

A very simple example is given below.

SQL> create table am27
  2  (col1  number, 
  3   col2  varchar2(30));

Table created.

SQL> create or replace trigger am27_trg
  2  before insert or update or delete 
  3  on am27
  4  for each row
  5  declare
  6    l_chk pls_integer;
  7  begin
  8    select count(1)
  9    into   l_chk
 10    from   am27;
 11    -- more processing...
 12  end;
 13  /

Trigger created.

SQL> insert into am27 values (1, 'testing');

1 row created.

SQL> update am27
  2  set    col1 = 2;
update am27
       *
ERROR at line 1:
ORA-04091: table SYSTEM.AM27 is mutating, trigger/function may not see it
ORA-06512: at "SYSTEM.AM27_TRG", line 4
ORA-04088: error during execution of trigger 'SYSTEM.AM27_TRG'

In the above example, as table AM27 is being queried in the trigger AM27_TRG that is based on the same table, a mutating error is received.

It is also possible for ORA-4091 to be encountered when querying a table other than the table on which the trigger is based! This happens when a foreign key reference is present with an on-delete-cascade option. A row level trigger on the master table will mutate if the detail table is being referred to in the trigger, for a delete transaction. This will only happen if the foreign key on the detail table is created with the on delete cascade option. No mutation occurs if the master table is being referred in a trigger on the detail table.

There is one odd case where mutation may occur when some other table in the trigger is referred to; below is an example of such a condition.

AM10 is a master table. AM10_DTL is the detail table that is related to the master table with the on-delete-cascade option. AM10_BEF_TRG is created on the master table that queries the detail table for some information. Issuing a delete on the master table results in the mutation error.

SQL> create table am10
  2  (col1 number, col2 varchar2(10));

Table created.

SQL> create table am10_dtl
  2  (col1  number, 
  3   col2  varchar2(10));

Table created.

SQL> alter table am10 add primary key (col1);

Table altered.

SQL> alter table am10_dtl add foreign key (col1) references am10(col1) on delete cascade;

Table altered.

SQL> create or replace trigger am10_bef_trg
  2  before insert or update or delete on am10
  3  for each row
  4  declare
  5    l_chk pls_integer;
  6  begin
  7    select 1
  8    into   l_chk
  9    from   am10_dtl
 10    where  col1 = :new.col1;
 11    dbms_output.put_line('ok');
 12  exception
 13    when no_data_found then
 14     dbms_output.put_line('no dtl recs');
 15  end;
 16  /

Trigger created.

SQL> insert into am10 values (1, 'amar');
err

1 row created.

SQL> insert into am10 values (2, 'chk');
err

1 row created.

SQL> insert into  am10_dtl values(1, 'cooler');

1 row created.

SQL> insert into am10_dtl values (2, 'validator');

1 row created.

SQL> delete from am10 where col1= 1;
delete from am10 where col1= 1
            *
ERROR at line 1:
ORA-04091: table SYSTEM.AM10_DTL is mutating, trigger/function may not see it
ORA-06512: at "SYSTEM.AM10_BEF_TRG", line 4
ORA-04088: error during execution of trigger 'SYSTEM.AM10_BEF_TRG'

Conclusion

Maintaining a consistent view of the data is an important feature of Oracle. The mutating error conflicts with maintaining a consistent view, therefore, care should be taken to write proper code and avoid such triggers. It is for the developers to write proper logic so that such complications do not arise.

If there is a requirement to update the base table from the row-level trigger, then split the logic across multiple triggers. The required information can be stored in a temporary table, PL/SQL table or package variables when the row-level trigger is executed. A statement-level trigger can then be used to pickup the stored information and apply it to the table.

» See All Articles by Columnist Amar Kumar Padhi








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