The effect of hospital size and surgical service on case cancellation in elective surgery: results from a prospective multicenter study

Anesth Analg. 2011 Sep;113(3):578-85. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e318222be4d. Epub 2011 Jun 16.


Background: Short-term case cancellation causes frustration for anesthesiologists, surgeons, and patients and leads to suboptimal use of operating room (OR) resources. In many facilities, >10% of all cases are cancelled on the day of surgery, thereby causing major problems for OR management and anesthesia departments. The effect of hospital type and service type on case cancellation rate is unclear.

Methods: In 25 hospitals of different types (university hospitals, large community hospitals, and mid- to small-size community hospitals) we studied all elective surgical cases of the following subspecialties over a period of 2 weeks: general surgery, trauma/orthopedics, urology, and gynecology. Case cancellation was defined as any patient who had been scheduled to be operated on the next day, but cancelled after the finalization of the OR plan on the day before surgery. A list of possible cancellation reasons was provided for standardized documentation.

Results: A total of 6009 anesthesia cases of 82 different anesthesia services were recorded during the study period. Services in university hospitals had cancellation rates 2.23 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.49 to 3.34) times higher than mid- to small-size community hospitals 12.4% (95% CI = 11.0% to 13.8%) versus 5.0% (95% CI = 4.0% to 6.2%). Of the surgical services, general surgical services had a significantly (1.78, 95% CI = 1.25 to 2.53) higher cancellation rate than did gynecology services-11.0% (95% CI = 9.7% to 12.5%) versus 6.6% (95% CI = 5.1% to 8.4%).

Conclusions: When benchmarking cancellation rates among hospitals, comparisons should control for academic institutions having higher incidences of case cancellation than nonacademic hospitals and general surgery services having higher incidences than other services.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Elective Surgical Procedures
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Hospital Bed Capacity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, Community / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, University / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Operating Room Information Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Specialties, Surgical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors