Background and purpose: Length of stay (LOS) following total hip and knee arthroplasty (THA and TKA) has been reduced to about 3 days in fast-track setups with functional discharge criteria. Earlier studies have identified patient characteristics predicting LOS, but little is known about specific reasons for being hospitalized following fast-track THA and TKA.
Patients and methods: To determine clinical and logistical factors that keep patients in hospital for the first postoperative 24-72 hours, we performed a cohort study of consecutive, unselected patients undergoing unilateral primary THA (n = 98) or TKA (n = 109). Median length of stay was 2 days. Patients were operated with spinal anesthesia and received multimodal analgesia with paracetamol, a COX-2 inhibitor, and gabapentin-with opioid only on request. Fulfillment of functional discharge criteria was assessed twice daily and specified reasons for not allowing discharge were registered.
Results: Pain, dizziness, and general weakness were the main clinical reasons for being hospitalized at 24 and 48 hours postoperatively while nausea, vomiting, confusion, and sedation delayed discharge to a minimal extent. Waiting for blood transfusion (when needed), for start of physiotherapy, and for postoperative radiographic examination delayed discharge in one fifth of the patients.
Interpretation: Future efforts to enhance recovery and reduce length of stay after THA and TKA should focus on analgesia, prevention of orthostatism, and rapid recovery of muscle function.