Objective: To describe the quality of postoperative documentation of vital signs and of medical and nursing review and to identify the patient and hospital factors associated with incomplete documentation.
Design, setting and participants: Retrospective audit of medical records of 211 adult patients following major surgery in five Australian hospitals, August 2003--July 2005.
Main outcome measures: Proportion of patients with complete documentation of medical review (each day) and nursing review and vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, temperature and oxygen saturation) (each nursing shift), and the proportion of available opportunities for medical and nursing review where documentation was incomplete. Univariate and multivariate odds ratios for the association between incomplete documentation and hospital and patient factors.
Results: During the first 3 postoperative ward days, 17% of medical records had complete documentation of vital signs and medical and nursing review. During the first 7 postoperative ward days, nursing review was undocumented for 5.6% of available shifts and medical review for 14.9% of available days. Respiratory rate was the most commonly undocumented observation (15.4% undocumented). Certain hospitals were significantly associated with incomplete documentation. Vital signs were more commonly undocumented in patients without epidural or patient-controlled (PC) analgesia, during evening nursing shifts, and during successive postoperative ward days. Nursing review was more commonly undocumented in the evening and for patients without epidural or PC analgesia. Medical review was more commonly undocumented on weekends.
Conclusion: Hospital and patient factors are associated with incomplete documentation of clinical review and vital signs after major surgery.