Allocating operating room resources to an acute care surgery service does not affect wait-times for elective cancer surgeries: a retrospective cohort study

World J Emerg Surg. 2014 Mar 27;9(1):21. doi: 10.1186/1749-7922-9-21.


Introduction: Acute care surgical services provide timely comprehensive emergency general surgical care while optimizing the use of limited resources. At our institution, 50% of the daily dedicated operating room (OR) time allocated to the Acute Care Emergency Surgery Service (ACCESS) came from previous elective general surgery OR time. We assessed the impact of this change in resource allocation on wait-times for elective general surgery cancer cases.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed adult patients who underwent elective cancer surgeries in the pre-ACCESS (September 2009 to June 2010) and post-ACCESS (September 2010 to June 2011) eras. Wait-times, calculated as the time between booking and actual dates of surgery, were compared within assigned priority classifications. Categorical and continuous variables were compared using chi-square and Mann-Whitney U tests respectively.

Results: A total of 732 cases (367 pre-ACCESS and 365 post-ACCESS) were identified, with no difference in median wait-times (25 versus 23 days) between the eras. However, significantly fewer cases exceeded wait-time targets in the post-ACCESS era (p <0.0001). There was a significant change (p = 0.027) in the composition of cancer cases, with fewer breast cancer operations (22% versus 28%), and more colorectal (41% versus 32%) and hepatobiliary cancer cases (5% versus 2%) in the post-ACCESS era.

Conclusion: These results suggest that shifting OR resources towards emergency surgery does not affect the timeliness of surgical cancer care. This study may encourage more centres to adopt acute care surgical services alongside their elective or subspecialty practices.