Postoperative follow-up: is a phone call enough?

J Pediatr Surg. 2008 Jan;43(1):83-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2007.09.025.


Background/purpose: At our institution, patients undergoing selected operative procedures are referred to a protocol for telephone follow-up by surgical specialty nurses. Our objective was to review our experience with this protocol to determine if telephone follow-up is a safe and preferred alternative to the traditional postoperative clinic visit.

Methods: Records of patients followed up by telephone over 6 months were evaluated for information regarding each patient's postoperative course. Records included telephone follow-up forms, clinic notes, and emergency department records.

Results: A total of 563 patients underwent a total of 601 procedures. Seventy-six percent (n = 427) were successfully contacted postoperatively; 24% (n = 136) did not respond to multiple contact attempts. Forty-five requests for clinic follow-up resulted in 27 actual visits, 10 from families not satisfied with telephone contact alone. Most families contacted (382/427, 90%) were satisfied and did not request an appointment. A total of 43 postoperative clinic or emergency department evaluations resulted in 9 interventions (1.6% complication rate).

Conclusion: Postoperative follow-up by telephone using a structured protocol is a safe alternative to routine clinic follow-up for patients undergoing selected procedures and is preferred by patients' families.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aftercare / methods*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nurse's Role
  • Postoperative Care / methods
  • Safety
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / methods*
  • Telephone*
  • Time Factors