Evaluation of emergency department treat-and-release encounters after major gastrointestinal surgery

J Surg Oncol. 2023 Aug;128(2):402-408. doi: 10.1002/jso.27292. Epub 2023 May 1.


Background and objectives: Emergency department (ED) utilization after gastrointestinal cancer operations is poorly characterized. Our study objectives were to determine the incidence of, reasons for, and predictors of ED treat-and-release encounters after gastrointestinal cancer operations.

Methods: Patients who underwent elective esophageal, hepatobiliary, gastric, pancreatic, small intestinal, or colorectal operations for cancer were identified in the 2015-2017 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project State Inpatient and State Emergency Department Databases for New York, Maryland, and Florida. The primary outcomes were the incidence of ED treat-and-release encounters and readmissions within 30 days of discharge.

Results: Among 51 527 patients at 406 hospitals, 4047 (7.9%) had an ED treat-and-release encounter, and 5573 (10.8%) had an ED encounter with readmission. In total, 40.7% of ED encounters were treat-and-release encounters. ED treat-and-release encounters were most frequently for pain (12.0%), device/ostomy complaints (11.7%), or wound complaints (11.4%). ED treat-and-release encounters predictors included non-Hispanic Black race/ethnicity (odds ratio [OR] 1.24, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.12-1.37) and Medicare (OR 1.27, 95% CI 1.16-1.40) or Medicaid (OR 1.82, 95% CI 1.62-2.40) coverage.

Conclusions: ED treat-and-release encounters are common after major gastrointestinal operations, making up nearly half of postdischarge ED encounters. The reasons for ED treat-and-release encounters differ from those for ED encounters with readmissions.

Keywords: cancer; emergency service, hospital; patient readmission; surgical oncology.

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare
  • Aged
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Medicare
  • Patient Discharge
  • Patient Readmission*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States