Study objective: To obtain patients' assessments of ambulatory anesthesia and surgery using a return-mail questionnaire postcard.
Design: Return-mail questionnaire given to consecutive ambulatory surgery patients.
Setting: Adult ambulatory surgery unit of a university hospital.
Patients: The questionnaire was given to 3,722 patients. Responses were returned by 1,511 patients (41%). Among the respondents, 95% had gynecologic procedures and 5% had general surgical procedures.
Measurements and main results: Eighty-six percent of respondents reported at least one minor sequela persisting after discharge. Laparoscopy patients experienced significantly more aches, drowsiness, dizziness, sore throat, nausea, and vomiting. For all patients, sequelae lasted 1 day for 59% of all patients, 2 days for 28%, and 3 or more days for 14%. Different sequelae had different durations. Thirty-eight percent of respondents were able to return to their usual activities the day after surgery; the remainder required 3.2 +/- 2.0 additional days. The main reasons for delayed recovery included general malaise (57%) and surgical discomfort (38%). Assessing their overall satisfaction, 97% would choose day surgery again.
Conclusions: Return-mail questionnaires can be used for patient follow-up after ambulatory surgery, with limitations characteristic of unselected-patient methods. Patients' assessments of their anesthesia and surgery can identify common sequelae that ambulatory patients should realistically expect to experience.