Hospital readmissions common among patients who had emergency surgery

Patients who had emergency general surgery are at high risk for readmission within 30 days of their hospitalizations due to surgical-site infections and gastrointestinal complications, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Surgery.

Joaquim M. Havens, M.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston and colleagues examined factors for 30-day readmissions of emergency general surgery (EGS) patients.

"Reducing readmissions is a noble cost-saving goal with benefits not only to the hospitals, but also to the patients. However, it is critical to understand the underlying factors associated with readmission to appropriately identify quality-improvement measures that address the true problem. Focused and concerted efforts should be made to incorporate readmission-reducing strategies into the care of EGS patients, particularly among those at higher risk for readmission," the researchers wrote in the study. 

The study analyzed the records of 177,511 EGS patients and found that half of those patients suffered post-surgical complications. Nearly 6 percent were readmitted to the hospital within 30 days. Surgical site infections were the most common factor in readmissions, followed by gastrointestinal complications. 

Previous research has found that approximately 13 percent of all surgical patients will be readmitted within 30 days, but it is emergency surgeries--such as laproscopic appendectomies and gall bladder removals--that drive up costs and mortality rates at healthcare facilities. 

In an accompanying commentary in JAMA Surgery, Joe Hines, M.D., of the Department of Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California at Los Angeles, said the latest findings show that healthcare leaders have a great opportunity to improve the care and outcomes of surgery patients.

Interventions that provide preoperative patient education and an early follow-up telephone call can help ensure that patients understand care instructions immediately after discharge, he said. 

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- read here's the commentary