Day of surgery cancellation rates in urology: Identification of modifiable factors

Can Urol Assoc J. May-Jun 2013;7(5-6):167-73. doi: 10.5489/cuaj.12020.


Objective: Day-of-surgery cancellations have a negative effect on operating room (OR) resources, as well as on patient satisfaction and perception of quality of care. Given increasing wait times in a universal healthcare system and the nature of urological surgery in our aging population, it should be a priority to identify modifiable risks of OR cancellations to assure timely and efficient delivery of care. We explore the rate and reasons for elective surgery cancellations in a Canadian urological practice.

Methods: We evaluated the rate and reason of urological surgery cancellation at a single academic institution, prospectively collected in our centre's Operating Room Scheduling Office System (ORSOS) database. Documented reasons for cancellations were divided into 3 components: (1) structural factors (e.g., no hospital bed); (2) patient factors (e.g., patient unwell); and (3) process factors (e.g., scheduling error). Rates and reasons for cancellations were compared to those of General Surgery and Gynecology. The documented reasons for cancellation in the ORSOS database were confirmed or extended by chart review and interviews with a subset of cancelled patients.

Results: Between 2005 and 2009, 1544 out of 19 141 (8.07 %) elective surgical cases were cancelled within the three surgical specialties (general surgery, gynecology and urology); urology had the highest average rate of 9.53%. Non-oncological cases represented a higher percentage of cancelled cases (15%, p < 0.001) and overall rates varied significantly over time in urology compared to the other surgical specialties. Potentially modifiable, process-related causes were by far the most common reason for cancellation (58.5%) and "standby" cases were a common cause of overall cancellation rates. Patient interviews confirmed the emotional and financial impact of cancellation; there was no overwhelming concern that clinical outcomes were negatively affected.

Conclusions: This contemporary exploration of cancelled urological cases is consistent with previous reports, although variable over time and dependent on definitions used. Potentially modifiable, process-related factors appear to be most frequently associated with cancellation, although more thorough and detailed documentation is required to further mitigate inefficient OR use. We suggest that all OR cancellations should be considered to be adverse incidents to be monitored by institutions in a systematic fashion.