Background: Emergency general surgery (EGS) has high rates of morbidity, mortality, and readmission. Therefore, it might be expected that an EGS service fields many consultations for postoperative patients. However, with the known overutilization of emergency department visits for nonurgent conditions, we hypothesized most postoperative consults received by an EGS service would be nonurgent and could be appropriately managed as an outpatient. Methods: We reviewed all EGS consults at a single urban safety net hospital over a 12-month period, screening for patients who had undergone surgery in the previous 12 mo. This included consultations from the emergency room and inpatient setting. Demographics, admission status, procedures performed, and other details were abstracted from the chart and Vizient reports. Consultation questions were categorized and then reviewed by an expert panel to determine if conditions could have been managed as an outpatient. Results: The EGS service received a total of 1112 consults, with 99 (9%) for a postoperative condition. Overall, 85% of postoperative consults were admitted after consultation, 19% underwent surgery and 21% underwent a procedure with gastroenterology or interventional radiology. Expert review classified slightly over one-third (36%) of consults as nonurgent. Conclusions: Most postoperative consults seen at our urban safety net hospital represent true morbidity that required admission, intervention, or surgery. Despite this high acuity, one-third of postoperative consults could have been managed as an outpatient. Efforts to improve discharge instructions and set patient expectations could limit unnecessary postoperative emergency department visits.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Acute care surgery
- Postoperative consults
- Surgical outcomes