Aim: To measure the type and frequency of complications for surgical patients 1 month after discharge.
Methods: A post-discharge patient survey was conducted in 2000 for patients who had undergone one of five elective operations: transurethral resection of the prostate, hysterectomy, major joint replacement, cholecystectomy, herniorrhaphy. Two hundred and fourteen patients (74%) returned the survey forms, which were sent 1 month after surgery. Patients were recruited from two teaching hospitals in the Hunter Area Health Service, New South Wales, Australia.
Results: One hundred and thirty-five (63%) patients reported one or more complications and 78 (37%) received treatment for 109 complications. Eighty-six per cent reported pain after discharge and 41% reported moderate to severe pain. Seventeen per cent reported infections after discharge and 94% of these patients were given treatment. Twenty-eight per cent reported bleeding after discharge and 20% of these were given treatment. Eleven (5%) patients were readmitted for treatment of problems related to their surgery including four who required further surgery. One hundred and seventy-two patients accessed a range of health services during the first month after discharge, resulting in 266 occasions of service. Twenty-eight per cent of post-discharge services were unplanned.
Conclusions: The lack of post-discharge monitoring conceals information about surgical outcomes. Patient reporting is an effective method of monitoring post-discharge outcomes. There is scope to develop post-discharge services to improve the quality of care in the areas of post-discharge pain management, the use of prophylactic measures and to provide treatment for complications that occur during this period.