Post-Operative Hospital Readmission on the Rise

Think you’re safe and sound once you’ve been released from the hospital? Think again. Several recently released studies have found an alarming trend that appears to be occurring among individuals seeking medical treatment: post-operative readmission.

One study found that within 30 days of being discharged, 1 in 12 patients were readmitted to an inpatient hospital bed. This analysis, conducted by the Canadian Institute for Health Information concluded that over 180,000 Canadian patients were readmitted as a result of unforeseen circumstances in 2010. The most common causes for readmission were surgical wound infections, severe pain, and heart failure. For pediatric patients, the most common causes of hospital readmission included respiratory infection and pneumonia. Among surgical patients, it was found that nearly 1 in 10 patients were brought back to the hospital as a result of post-operative infection, commonly caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria such as MRSA. The findings among obstetric patients were even more startling: approximately 1 in every 4 patients were readmitted due to infection following a Caesarean section.

Socioeconomic factors found to be influential in this study included neighborhood income and location: individuals from lower-income areas, as well as those from rural areas, tended to face a higher risk of readmission. Another important factor for readmission found in this study was length of stay: those that deviated from the expected length of stay were found to be predictors for readmission. Other factors included age, preexisting conditions, and gender—male patients were slightly more likely to be readmitted than female patients.

Dr. Irfan Dhalla, a physician and scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, explains that unexpected readmission into the hospital can be a very stressful experience for patients and their families, attaining a better understanding of such individuals and why they are being readmitted can help professionals develop strategies to improve patient care. While such efforts are extremely important, it is also essential to highlight the things that can be done by patients and their families to improve patient safety, including communicating with medical professionals, hygiene, and proper disinfection techniques.

Another study conducted by researchers at the Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University in Detroit looked more specifically at patients who had knee- or hip-replacement surgery. More than half of those who were hospitalized for a surgical-site infection within a year after undergoing surgery were readmitted again during the following year. Among those who were readmitted for surgical-site infection, approximately 12.5% were hospitalized on a subsequent occasion for concerns related to the infection. It was found that such patients spent an average of 8.6 days hospitalized, which cost on average approximately $26,812. Patients who were readmitted for other causes were found to have a shorter hospital stay, at an average of 6.2 days, costing approximately $31,046. By preventing further complications in patients afflicted by surgical-site infections, the healthcare system in the United States could save millions of dollars annually.

The findings from these two studies are extremely important in attaining a better understanding of patient care and infection control in healthcare settings. Both studies are a step in the right direction toward preventing surgical site infections, as they highlight the deadly issue that is both fortunately and unfortunately gaining attention. These findings not only provide further evidence for the occurrence of SSIs and healthcare-associated infections in general, but also present new empirical data to highlight some of the important characteristics related to such infections. By preventing hospital readmission, we are saving more than time and money; we are potentially saving the innocent lives of those we love.

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