NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – Hospital discharge after bariatric surgery can be significantly and meaningful accelerated by using multimodality pain control techniques that do not include patient-controlled analgesia (PCA), according to data from a two-hospital study presented at Obesity Week 2017.
“It was our impression that PCA was delaying milestones of recovery, so we prospectively evaluated this hypothesis. The result was a meaningful reduction in the length of stay without any meaningful adverse consequences,” reported Aline Van, RN, a weight loss surgery nurse navigator at Doctors Hospital, Manteca, Calif.
The study was conducted because of concern that nausea and vomiting related to PCA was a common cause of discharge delay at both Doctors Hospital in Manteca (DHM) and the affiliated Doctors Medical Center (DMC) in Modesto. Led by Maria Marple, PA-C, the two-part prospective study consisted of an initial six-month evaluation of average length of stay (LOS) and a formal evaluation of the causes of delayed discharge. In the second phase, the same analyses were performed over a six-month period when PCA was halted.
At 1.83 days in one center and 1.84 days in the other, the average LOS was nearly identical during the initial six-month baseline evaluation. In the 75 patients evaluated in this period at DHC, inadequate fluid intake due to nausea and vomiting was involved in 61.7% of the cases in which discharge was delayed. At DMC, where 46 patients were evaluated in the baseline period, 47.6% of delays were due to inadequate fluid intake attributed to nausea and vomiting. In both cases, this was the most common reason for delay.
In the study period after PCA was discontinued, inadequate fluid intake remained the major cause of delayed discharges, but there were fewer discharge delays overall due to less nausea and vomiting. The average length of stay among the 104 patients treated in the study period at DHM fell to 1.64 days, while the average LOS fell to 1.66 days in the 83 patients treated at DMC. This was largely driven by a reduction in the proportion of patients with >2 days LOS, which fell from 52% to 41% at DHC (P = .04) and from 45% to 32% at DMC (P = .008).
The surgical procedures at both centers (all performed laparoscopically) included sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass, and duodenal switch. Although a multimodality approach is employed for postoperative pain control at both institutions, the protocols differ modestly. At DHC, acetaminophen by mouth is the primary postoperative analgesic with hydromorphone permitted if needed. At DMC, intravenous acetaminophen is used in the first 24 hours in all patients with acetaminophen/hydrocodone offered if needed.
Since the trial was completed and results analyzed, PCA has been discontinued completely at both institutions. In follow-up to date there has been a slight additional reduction in average LOS at both institutions, reaching 1.5 days at DHC and 1.61 days at DMC.
“The four to five hour average reduction in LOS following discontinuation of PCA is significant because it frees up beds at our hospital, which is run at capacity,” Ms. Van said. “When considered cumulatively, the average reduction in LOS is very meaningful.”
Although the benefits are generally attributed to reduced nausea and vomiting, which has implications for a better patient experience, Ms. Van also believes patients are having faster cognitive and physical recovery since PCA was eliminated, producing faster time to ambulation and discharge readiness.
“There really have been no negatives,” Dr. Coates confirmed. “In our experience, eliminating PCA has been better for the patients and has important implications for costs.”
Ms. Van and Dr. Coates reported no financial relationships relevant to this topic.