Objective: To determine the frequency of hospital complications among survivors of inpatient treatment for congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or diabetes mellitus (DM).
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting: Nine Veterans Affairs hospitals in the southern United States.
Patients: 1,837 men veterans discharged alive following hospitalization for CHF, COPD, or DM between January 1987 and December 1989. This patient population represents a subset of cases gathered to study the process of care in the hospital and subsequent early readmission; thus, veterans who died in the hospital were not included.
Measurements: Medical record review to record the occurrence of any of 30 in-hospital complications such as cardiac arrest, nosocomial infections, or delirium (overall agreement between two reviewers = 84%, kappa = 0.37).
Results: Complications occurred in 15.7% of the CHF cases, 13.1% of the COPD cases, and 14.8% of the DM cases. Hypoglycemic reactions were the most frequent individual adverse events in the CHF and DM cases (3.6% and 11.4% of the cases, respectively), and theophylline toxicity was most frequent among the COPD cases (4.9%). Patient age, the presence of comorbid diseases, and the Acute Physiology Score (APS) of APACHE II were associated with complication occurrence. For each disease, the patients who had a complication had significantly longer mean hospital stays than did the patients who did not have complications (14.6 to 14.9 days vs 7.2 to 8.2 days, p < 0.01).
Conclusions: Complications are frequent among patients discharged alive with CHF, COPD, or DM. The patients who experienced complications were more ill on admission and had longer hospital stays.