Postoperative hospital readmissions after ventral hernia repair may be both predictable and preventable if type of operation and patient characteristics are taken into account, a large retrospective study has found.

Early readmissions, or ‘failed discharges,’ are potentially more preventable than are later readmissions, according to Adam C. Celio, MD, of East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C., and his colleagues. Medical literature “demonstrates that patients readmitted within a few days of discharge return for different reasons than patients who are readmitted later; very early readmissions are likely due to poor coordination of care or inadequate recognition of postdischarge needs, while later readmissions (still within the 30-day window) are more likely due to patient disease or procedural complications.”

Dr. Celio and his coinvestigators examined data from the American College of Surgeons’ National Surgical Quality Improvement Program, looking for patients who underwent either open (n = 9,009) or laparoscopic (n = 3,360) ventral hernia repair (VHR) in 2012. The primary endpoint was defined as readmission within 30 days of discharge following a VHR procedure; early readmission was defined as occurring within 5 days of discharge for laparoscopic VHR and within 9 days of discharge for open VHR, while late readmission was defined as any readmission that occurred after the aforementioned time frames ( Surgery. 2016;160[2]:413-17 ).

The researchers analyzed each readmission to determine its cause among nine classifications: bleeding, cardiovascular events, dehydration, gastrointestinal causes (nausea, emesis, ileus, and bowel obstruction), pain, venous thromboembolic event, wound occurrences (superficial site infection, deep operative site infection, wound disruptions), other infection, and other causes.

Of the 12,369 individuals included in the study, 1,057 (8.5%) were readmitted within 30 days of undergoing VHR. Generally, the patients who had open procedures had higher ASA scores than did those who had laparoscopic surgery, reflecting a greater likelihood of preoperative physical impairment and chronic disease. The researchers then analyzed which patients were mostly likely to be readmitted and the correlation between type of operation, cause of readmission, and timing of readmission (early or late).

Open-VHR patients were more likely to be readmitted within 30 days than were those who underwent laparoscopic VHR: 9.2% vs. 6.9% readmission rates, respectively (OR 0.73, 95% CI 0.63-0.85). Among all the patients readmitted, wound complications were the most common cause (32.2%), followed by gastrointestinal disorders (14.3%), most which were attributed to emesis or nausea.

Wound complications were more highly associated with late readmission than with early ones, at 52% vs. 23%, respectively (OR 3.68, 95% CI 2.56-5.29). As might be expected, wound complications were more likely to occur in open-VHR patients than in laparoscopic-VHR patients: 49.6% vs. 24.4% (OR 3.05, 95% CI 2.06-4.52).

Of the entire cohort, 279 patients (2.3%) were classified as early readmissions, and gastrointestinal causes were more highly associated with early readmission than with late ones: 39% vs.13% (OR 4.45, 95% CI 3.06-6.47). Gastrointestinal issues occurred more often after laparoscopic VHR than after open VHR: 33% vs. 16% (OR 2.59, 95% CI 1.75-3.84). These early readmissions, occurring within days of discharge, are potentially preventable with a stepped up focus on control of nausea and emesis experienced by these patients, the researchers noted.

A funding source for this study was not disclosed. Dr. Celio and his coauthors did not report any relevant disclosures.