Discharge time (total recovery time) is one determinant of the overall cost of outpatient surgery. We performed this study to determine what factors affect discharge time. Details regarding patients, anesthesia, surgery, and recovery were recorded prospectively for 1088 adult patients undergoing ambulatory surgery over an 8-mo period. The contribution of factors to variability in the discharge time was assessed by using multivariate linear regression analysis. In the last 4 mo of the study, nurses indicated the causes of discharge delays > or =50 min in Phase 1 or > or =70 min in Phase 2 recovery. When all anesthetic techniques were included, anesthetic technique was the most important determinant of discharge time (R2 = 0.10-0.15; P = 0.001), followed by the Phase 2 nurse. After general anesthesia, the Phase 2 nurse was the most important factor (R2 = 0.13; P = 0.01-0.001). In women, the choice of general anesthetic drugs was significant (R2 = 0.04; P = 0.002). The three most common medical causes of delay were pain, drowsiness, and nausea/vomiting. System factors were the foremost cause of Phase 2 delays (41%), with lack of immediate availability of an escort accounting for 53% of system-related delays. We conclude that efforts to shorten discharge time would best be directed at improving nursing efficiency; ensuring availability of an escort for the patient; and preventing postoperative pain, drowsiness, and emetic symptoms. The selection of anesthetic technique and anesthetic drug seems to be of selective importance in determining discharge time depending on patient gender and type of surgery.
Implications: The relative importance of anesthetic and nonanesthetic factors were evaluated as determinants of discharge time after ambulatory surgery. Postoperative nursing care was the single most important factor after general anesthesia; anesthetic drugs, anesthetic technique, and prevention of pain and emetic symptoms were of selective importance depending on patient gender and type of surgery.