A hospital’s program to enhance recovery after colorectal surgery cut length of stay by 3 days and saved up to $4,800 per patient without increasing postoperative morbidity or 30-day readmission rates, investigators reported online July 23 in JAMA Surgery.
The study extends the evidence base for colorectal enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) programs to community hospital settings, said Dr. Cristina Geltzeiler of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and her associates.
The investigators studied practice patterns and patient outcomes for 1 year before and 2 years after starting a colorectal ERAS program for 244 patients. The program featured preadmission patient education, preoperative bowel preparation for left-sided and rectal procedures, use of intrathecal spinal anesthetics, conservative fluid management, minimal use of narcotics, and early resumption of oral intake and ambulation after surgery, the researchers reported (JAMA Surg. 2014 July 23 [doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2014.675]). Discharge criteria did not change, they noted.
After program implementation, use of laparoscopy increased by almost 30% (from 57.4% to 88.8%; P less than .001) and length of stay fell by 3 days (from 6.7 to 3.7 days; P less than .001), while 30-day readmission rates did not increase (17.6% vs. 12.5%), the investigators reported.
The percentage of patients who used postoperative narcotic analgesia also fell substantially (from 63.2% to 15%; P less than .001), as did duration of narcotic use (from 67.8 hours to 47.1 hours; P = .02), ileus (from 13.2% to 2.5% of patients; P = .02) and intra-abdominal infections (from 7.4% to 2.5% of patients; P = .24), the investigators said. Outcomes did not differ significantly for patients with colorectal cancer, they added.
"Development and implementation of the program required multidisciplinary collaboration among surgeons, nursing staff, anesthesia providers, pharmacists, operating room staff, clinics, and preadmission services," said Dr. Geltzeiler and her associates. To gain program buy-in, leaders organized discussions and presentations of published ERAS literature, and also used clear, consistent messaging about expectations for patients’ activity, diet, and pain management throughout the perioperative period, the researchers added.
A trend toward referring patients to a smaller pool of colorectal specialists during the study period could have affected results, the investigators noted. They added that rates of superficial wound infection were probably underreported because such infections tend to occur after discharge.
The authors reported no funding sources or conflicts of interest.