Patient perspectives on emergency department self-referral after bariatric surgery

Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2018 May;14(5):674-681. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2018.01.015. Epub 2018 Jan 31.


Background: Reducing avoidable emergency department (ED) visits is an increasingly important target of quality improvement and cost containment efforts in bariatric surgery. Administrative and clinical registry data provide an incomplete picture of the factors contributing to postoperative ED utilization. Patient-centered interviews can help identify intervention opportunities.

Objectives: We sought to understand the circumstances surrounding patient self-referral to the ED after elective, primary bariatric surgery.

Setting: A quality improvement collaborative in Michigan.

Methods: A prospective review of clinically abstracted data and patient interviews was completed across 40 hospitals participating in a statewide quality improvement collaborative. Trained nurses collected data on the circumstances surrounding patients' 30-day postoperative ED visits using a previously validated interview tool. Over a year, 201 of 633 total ED visits met the inclusion criteria, with 78% of those patients being interviewed.

Results: The most common reported chief complaints were abdominal pain and nausea/vomiting. Patients reported high compliance with provider-driven perioperative measures to reduce ED visits. One third of patients stated urgency as the reason for not contacting their surgeon prior to their visit. A majority of patients believed their ED visit was both necessary and unavoidable.

Conclusions: Most patients experienced non-life-threatening symptoms but believed their concerns required immediate medical attention in an ED. Patients did not seek lower acuity alternatives despite the increasing availability of these lower cost options. Urgent care centers are one practical alternative for patients who need expeditious professional evaluation. Focused, patient-centered education and promotion of appropriate lower acuity options may decrease nonurgent ED utilization among postoperative bariatric patients.

Keywords: Bariatric surgery; Emergency department visits; Nonurgent ED visits; Patient perspective.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bariatric Surgery / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Michigan
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome