The effect of complications on length of stay

Ann Surg. 1994 Dec;220(6):740-4. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199412000-00006.


Objectives: The authors determined the effect of complications on length of stay (LOS) in surgical patients.

Setting: From 1987 to 1990, in the Professional General Surgical Unit of Royal Victoria Hospital, a retrospective survey was conducted on 5128 consecutively admitted patients with 396 different diagnosis; 228 different operations were examined.

Main outcome measures: Patient LOS during a 3-year period in a general surgical ward was analyzed from hospital activity analysis, case notes, ward audit notes, and sepsis audit notes. Readmission rates for complications in patients with a short LOS were examined. Comparison were made between LOS and age, type of surgery, and complication type.

Results: Pressure on beds resulting from an increased demand on surgical care decreases patient's hospital LOS; increasing age increases LOS. In general, complications double the average LOS. The authors calculated that a surgical complication can be given a numerical ratio that directly reflects the severity of the complication and increases the patient's LOS. The ration of the infective complication corresponds with the clinical severity of the complication. However, a short LOS may lead to readmission of patients for further treatment. For patients readmitted with complications, 41% had been discharged earlier than the average LOS for their diagnosis.

Conclusion: Length of stay is increased by complications and can be used to implement discharge planning in general surgical patients. Furthermore, a complication of their treatment can be given a numerical ratio that corresponds to the clinical severity of the complication and the increased LOS in hospital.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies