There is an increased focus on reducing the costs of health care delivery, and one major driver of surgical cost is length of hospitalization. A minimally invasive surgical approach to hysterectomy is a strategy that significantly enhances recovery and shortens hospital stay, although many patients who can safely be considered for same-day discharge (SDD), including many with cancer, are still admitted to the hospital overnight. Much has been published on the predictors and pathways for successful same-day discharge after minimally invasive hysterectomy, and in this column we will review how to best predict who is a good candidate for SDD and how to optimize the success of this approach with respect to safety and patient satisfaction.
What are the benefits to SDD?
Certainly, decreased hospitalization costs are an attractive feature of SDD following hysterectomy, although surgeons should also be mindful that patient-centered outcomes, such as pain control, managing nausea, and patient satisfaction, also are considered with equal emphasis. Several studies have shown that, in appropriate candidates and when proactive pathways are used, patient satisfaction is preserved with SDD following hysterectomy.1
Choosing patient candidates
Same day discharge is most successfully accomplished in patients of good general baseline health.2 Diabetic patients, particularly those on insulin, are generally not good candidates for SDD because it is important to monitor and intervene in blood glucose changes that are influenced by a nothing-by-mouth status and surgical stress. We recommend observing patients overnight with a history of pulmonary disease who may have transient increased postoperative O2 needs. Similarly, patients with significant cardiac disease (including heart failure and coronary disease) may benefit from prolonged overnight observation.
Particular caution should be paid to patients with obstructive sleep apnea, which may be occult but anticipated in patients with very high body mass indexes (greater than 40 kg/m2). General anesthetic drugs, the trauma of intubation, and opioids all couple with the underlying airway compromise such that these patients are at risk for postoperative apnea, which, in severe cases, can result in anoxia and death. These patients should be considered for continuous pulse-ox monitoring for at least 12-24 hours postoperatively and are not good candidates for same-day discharge.
Patients who have baseline anticoagulation that has been stopped or bridged preoperatively should have prolonged observation with recheck of their postoperative hemoglobin prior to discharge.
Patients who live alone or are very elderly with baseline frailty are poor candidates for SDD and may benefit from nursing observation overnight while they metabolize their anesthesia. Patients who have chronic opioid dependency present a greater challenge to control postoperative pain; these patients are generally less good candidates for SDD.