Acute care surgery: the impact of an acute care surgery service on assessment, flow, and disposition in the emergency department

Am J Surg. 2012 May;203(5):578-583. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2011.12.006. Epub 2012 Mar 7.


Background: Acute care surgery (ACS) services are becoming increasingly popular.

Methods: Assessment, flow, and disposition of adult ACS patients (acute, nontrauma surgical conditions) through the emergency department (ED) in a large health care system (Calgary) were prospectively analyzed.

Results: Among 447 ACS ED consultations over 3 centers (70% admitted to ACS), the median wait time from the consultation request to ACS arrival was 36 minutes, and from ACS arrival to the admission request it was 91 minutes. The total ACS-dependent time was 127 minutes compared with 261 minutes for initial ED activities and 104 minutes for transfer to a hospital ward (P < .05). Forty percent of patients underwent computed tomography (CT) imaging (76% before consultation). The time to ACS consultation was 305 minutes when a CT scan was performed first.

Conclusions: An ACS service results in rapid ED assessment of surgical emergencies. Patient waiting is dominated by the time before requesting ACS consultation and/or waiting for transfer to the ward.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alberta
  • Critical Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Treatment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies