Timing of Readmissions After Elective Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty: Does a 30-Day All-Cause Rate Capture Surgically Relevant Readmissions?

J Arthroplasty. 2021 Feb;36(2):728-733. doi: 10.1016/j.arth.2020.07.085. Epub 2020 Aug 18.


Background: The 30-day all-cause readmission rate is a widely used metric of hospital performance. However, there is lack of clarity as to whether 30 days is an appropriate time frame following surgical procedures. Our aim is to determine whether a 90-day time window is superior to a 30-day time window in capturing surgically relevant readmissions after total hip arthroplasty (THA) and total knee arthroplasty (TKA).

Methods: We analyzed readmissions following all primary THAs and TKAs recorded in the English National Health Service Hospital Episode Statistics database from 2008 to 2018. We compared temporal patterns of 30- and 90-day readmission rates for the following types of readmission: all-cause, surgical, return to theater, and those related to specific surgical complications.

Results: A total of 1.47 million procedures were recorded. After THA and TKA, over three-quarters of 90-day surgical readmissions took place within the first 30 days (78.5% and 75.7%, respectively). All-cause and surgical readmissions both peaked at day 4 and followed a similar temporal course thereafter. The ratio of surgical to medical readmissions was greater for THA than for TKA, with THA dislocation both being one of the most common surgical complications and clustering early after discharge, with 73.5% of 90-day dislocations occurring within the first 30 days.

Conclusion: The 30-day all-cause readmission rate is a good reflection of surgically relevant readmissions that take place in the first 90 days after THA and TKA.

Keywords: Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRPP); readmission; total hip arthroplasty; total hip replacement; total knee arthroplasty; total knee replacement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip* / adverse effects
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Patient Discharge
  • Patient Readmission
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • State Medicine