Relationships between predischarge and postdischarge infectious complications, length of stay, and unplanned readmissions in the ACS NSQIP database

Surgery. 2021 Feb;169(2):325-332. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2020.08.009. Epub 2020 Sep 12.


Background: Postoperative complications, length of index hospital stay, and unplanned hospital readmissions are important metrics reflecting surgical care quality. Postoperative infections represent a substantial proportion of all postoperative complications. We examined the relationships between identification of postoperative infection prehospital and posthospital discharge, length of stay, and unplanned readmissions in the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database across nine surgical specialties.

Methods: The 30-day postoperative infectious complications including sepsis, surgical site infections, pneumonia, and urinary tract infection were analyzed in the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program inpatient data during the period from 2012 to 2017. General, gynecologic, vascular, orthopedic, otolaryngology, plastic, thoracic, urologic, and neurosurgical inpatient operations were selected.

Results: Postoperative infectious complications were identified in 5.2% (137,014/2,620,450) of cases; 81,929 (59.8%) were postdischarge. The percentage of specific complications identified postdischarge were 73.4% of surgical site infections (range across specialties 63.7-93.1%); 34.9% of sepsis cases (27.4-58.1%); 26.5% of pneumonia cases (18.9%-36.3%); and 53.2% of urinary tract infections (48.3%-88.0%). The relative risk of readmission among patients with postdischarge versus predischarge surgical site infection, sepsis, pneumonia, or urinary tract infection was 5.13 (95% confidence interval: 4.90-5.37), 9.63 (8.93-10.40), 10.79 (10.15-11.45), and 3.32 (3.07-3.60), respectively. Over time, mean length of stay decreased but postdischarge infections and readmission rates significantly increased.

Conclusion: Most postoperative infectious complications were diagnosed postdischarge. These were associated with an increased risk of readmission. The trend toward shorter length of stay over time was observed along with an increase both in the percentage of infections detected after discharge and the rate of unplanned related postoperative readmissions over time. Postoperative surveillance of infections should extend beyond hospital discharge of surgical patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aftercare / organization & administration*
  • Aftercare / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • Pneumonia / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Quality Improvement / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sepsis / epidemiology
  • Sepsis / etiology
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / adverse effects*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / epidemiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / etiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urinary Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Urinary Tract Infections / etiology