Reasons for cancellation of cases on the day of surgery-a prospective study

Indian J Anaesth. 2009 Feb;53(1):35-9.


Late cancellation of scheduled operations is a major cause of inefficient use of operating-room time and a waste of resources. We studied elective operating theatre bookings in general surgical discipline. On the day of surgery the intended list was noted and a list of cancellations with the reason was noted by the attending anaesthesiologist. 1590 patients were scheduled for elective surgical procedures in 458 operation rooms. 30.3 % patients were cancelled on the day of surgery. Of these, 59.7% were cancelled due to lack of availability of theatre time, 10.8% were cancelled because of medical reasons and 16.2% did not turned up on the day of surgery. In 5.4% patients, surgery was cancelled by surgeons due to a change in the surgical plan, 3.7% were cancelled because of administrative reasons, and 4.2% patients were postponed because of miscellaneous reasons. We believe that many of the on-the-day surgery cancellations of elective surgery were potentially avoidable. We observed that cancellations due to lack of theatre time were not only a scheduling problem but were mainly caused by surgeons underestimating the timeneeded for the operation. The requirement of the instruments necessary for scheduled surgical list should be discussed a day prior to planned OR list and arranged. The non-availability of the surgeon should be informed in time so that another case is substituted in that slot. All patients who have met PACU discharge criteria must be discharged promptly to prevent delay in shifting out of the operated patient. Day care patients should be counseled adequately to report on time. Computerized scheduling should be utilized to create a realistic elective schedule. Audit should be carried out at regular intervals to find out the effective functioning of the operation theatre.

Keywords: Cancellation; Operation room; Postponement cases.