CHICAGO – Implementing an enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocol at Canada’s second largest hospital significantly reduced morbidity and surgical site infections after elective colorectal surgery.
Rates of postoperative morbidity declined 48.7% from 27.3% before implementation to 14% after full ERAS implementation (P less than .05), while total surgical site infections fell 45% (20.2% vs. 11%; P less than .05).
Nonsignificant reductions were also seen in superficial surgical site infections (11.1% vs. 7.3%), deep SSIs (2% vs. 0.6%), and organ space SSIs (7.1% vs. 3.4%).
“Our results illustrate that using a multidisciplinary team, with attention to details and small multiple changes, aggregation of marginal gains can result in dramatic improvements in patient outcomes,” primary author Tracey Hong, R.N., said at the American College of Surgeons/National Surgical Quality Improvement Program National Conference.
The ERAS protocol was implemented at Vancouver General Hospital, after ACS NSQIP risk-adjusted reports showed the 743-bed hospital had a high odds ratio of 1.50 for colorectal operative mortality.
“We had a problem,” Ms. Hong, the hospital’s quality and patient safety coordinator, said.
ERAS documents were developed, staff were educated on the protocol, intraoperative components were implemented and audited, and the full protocol was initiated in November 2013.
To explore the effects of ERAS implementation, chart reviews were conducted on 278 general surgery patients undergoing elective colorectal surgery: 99 patients before ERAS implementation (July 2011 through June 2013) and 179 patients in the first 10 months after full implementation (November 2013 through August 2014).
Laparoscopic colon resections were performed in 53% of the pre-ERAS group and 62% of the post-ERAS group, laparoscopic anterior and abdominoperineal resections in 10% and 23%, and open anterior and abdominoperineal resections in 23% and 18%, respectively. The median American Society of Anesthesiologists classification in both groups was 2.
After ERAS implementation, there was a trend for less postoperative pneumonia, unplanned intubation, ventilator use greater than 48 hours, and urinary tract infections (data not presented).
The median length of stay was reduced from 7 to 5 days, while readmissions increased from 7.1% to 11.7% (both changes were nonsignificant), according to Ms. Hong, who won the conference’s 2015 Surgical Clinical Reviewers Abstract Competition.
The reason for the increased readmissions is unclear, but opportunities to avoid preventable readmissions have been identified and are currently being worked on, she said.
Process measures showed that the goal of achieving a minimum 80% compliance from August 2014 to March 2015 was met within 4 months and sustained for the preoperative and intraoperative ERAS components, in aggregate. The aggregate postoperative components, which include early oral nutrition, early ambulation, early catheter removal, use of chewing gum, and defined discharge criteria, were the slowest to change, but are trending in the right direction, Ms. Hong said.
The key to achieving better outcomes with ERAS lies in involving a multidisciplinary team in all stages of planning and implementation, ongoing communication and sharing of results with stakeholders to foster commitment and ownership, and real-time auditing and use of plan-do-study-act cycles to enhance the rate of improvement, she said.
“It takes time to change culture; tenacity is important,” Ms. Hong added.
In a separate poster presentation, Ms. Hong and her colleagues reported compliance of ERAS components under the control of the anesthesiologist. The highest rate of compliance was seen in practices with few barriers to implementation such as active pre- and intraoperative warming (96%) and appropriate admission of antibiotics (92%) and antiemetics (86%). Conversely, rates were lower for multimodal analgesia (72%) and goal-directed fluid therapy (50%), which can be more labor intensive. Also, there is controversy around goal-directed fluid therapy’s benefit in low-risk patients, which may contribute to the lower compliance rates, the study authors noted. Overall, just under three-quarters of patients received at least four out of five components in their care.
On the basis of the success of the protocol, ERAS is now used for patients undergoing radical cystectomy, with plans to expand its use to all emergent and urgent cases within general surgery at Vancouver General as well as bariatric surgery at Richmond Hospital, also a member of Vancouver Coastal Health, Andrea Bisaillon, operations director of surgical services at Vancouver General Hospital, said in an interview.
“We’re rolling out ERAS to all the surgical patients because it’s best practice for all of surgery, not just colorectal surgery anymore,” she said.