Patient reporting of complications after surgery: What impact does documenting postoperative problems from the perspective of the patient using telephone interview and postal questionnaires have on the identification of complications after surgery?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMJ Open, 2019, 9 (7), pp. V - ?
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© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. Objectives To identify the frequency of postoperative complications, including problems identified by patients and complications occurring after discharge from hospital. To identify how these impact on quality of life (QoL) and the patient's perception of the success of their treatment. Design Data from three prospective sources: Surgical audit, a telephone interview (2 weeks after discharge) and a patient-focused questionnaire (2 months after surgery) were retrospectively analysed. Setting Dunedin Hospital, Dunedin, New Zealand. Participants Of the 500 patients, 100 undergoing each of the following types of surgeries: Anorectal, biliary, colorectal, hernia and skin. Primary and secondary outcome measures The primary outcomes were complications and the 36-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36). Secondary outcomes included the patient's ratings of their treatment and a questionnaire-derived patient satisfaction score. Results 226 patients reported a complication; there were 344 separate complications and 411 reports of complications (16% of complications were reported on more than one occasion). The audit, telephone interview and questionnaire captured 12.6%, 36.3% and 51% of the 411 reports, respectively. Patients with complications had a lower SF-36 Physical Composite Summary (PCS) score (48.5 vs 43.9, p=0.021) and a lower Patient Satisfaction Score (85.6 vs 74.6, p<0.001). Rating of information received, care received, symptoms experienced, QoL and satisfaction with surgery were all significantly worse for patients with complications. On linear regression analysis, surgical complications, American Society of Anaesthesiologists score and age all made a similar contribution to the SF-36 PCS score, with standardised beta coefficients between 0.19 and 0.21. Conclusions Following surgery, over 40% of patients experienced complications. The QoL and satisfaction score were significantly less than for those without complications. The majority of complications were diagnosed after discharge from hospital. Taking more notice of the patient perspective helps us to identify problems, to understand what is important to them and may suggest ways to improve perioperative care.
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