Risk factors for prolonged length of stay after major elective surgery

Ann Surg. 1999 Aug;230(2):251-9. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199908000-00016.


Objective: Length of stay (LOS) is an important outcome as a marker of resource consumption. Determining which factors increase LOS may provide information on reducing costs and improving the delivery of care. The purpose of this study was to determine the independent association of intraoperative process of care and postoperative events with prolonged LOS after adjusting for preoperative severity of illness in patients undergoing major elective surgery.

Methods: Cases representing 11 elective operations from the National VA Surgical Quality Improvement Program were analyzed using multivariate logistic regression analysis. The outcome, prolonged LOS, was defined as an LOS greater than or equal to the 75th percentile (in days) for each operation. Hierarchical modeling was used to assess the independent association of groups of variables (preoperative patient characteristics, intraoperative process of care, and postoperative adverse events) with prolonged LOS.

Results: For the 11 operations explored, there were 23,919 cases. Common preoperative variables associated with prolonged LOS were functional status, American Society of Anesthesiology class, and age. The most predictive intraoperative and postoperative variables included intraoperative blood transfusion, operative time, return to the operating room, and the number of complications after surgery.

Conclusions: Prolonged LOS is associated with preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative factors. Although preoperative factors were independently associated with a prolonged LOS, the factors generating the highest risks for a prolonged LOS were the intraoperative process of care and postoperative adverse events. To reduce costs, efforts should be made to improve the intraoperative process of care and to minimize postoperative complications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Elective Surgical Procedures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / surgery
  • Risk Factors