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.
Studies have shown that the indication for the procedure (for example, cancer with staging, fibroids, endometriosis) is less critical in determining who is a good candidate for SDD.3 However, successful SDD rates are highest in more straightforward cases with few or no prior surgeries, small uteri (less than 14 weeks), a surgical duration of less than 3 hours, and a surgical start time before 2 p.m. Longer, more complex cases are typically associated with more blood loss, higher risk for occult complications, and more time under anesthesia (and in Trendelenburg), which can exacerbate airway edema. In preparation for such cases, it might be wise to prepare patients for the possibility that they may not be good candidates for discharge on the same day. In general, most SDD pathways exclude patients with very high BMI (greater than 50 kg/m2) because of concern for airway patency and because these cases may be more complex with higher underlying risk. In addition, many of these patients have diabetes and require perioperative metabolic interventions.
A key component to successful SDD is setting patient expectations. Patients should be informed at their preoperative visit that, unless there is an unexpected occurrence or response to the surgery, they will be discharged to home the same day. This allows them to prepare their home (including transportation needs) in advance. They should be provided with information about what to expect that first night after surgery (including potential residual drowsiness or nausea from anesthesia and immediate postoperative pain).
On the day of surgery, under the influence of anesthesia and pain medication, patients will have difficulty retaining complex discharge instructions. The preoperative visit is critically important because it’s the best time to provide them with this information, including postoperative activity limitations, wound and dressing care, and follow-up instructions. This is also the best time to provide prescriptions for postoperative pain, nausea, and constipation prophylaxis with detailed instructions about best use. Patients should be encouraged to fill these prescriptions preoperatively so that they have these medications on hand on the evening of their discharge.
Many programs utilize a combination of educational strategies (in person, written, video) to maximize the likelihood of retention.1 It is also important to offer an opportunity for patients to ask questions about this information after they have received it (for example, by phoning the patients prior to their procedure).
Postoperative pain and nausea can be preempted with immediate preoperative doses of dexamethasone, gabapentin, ondansetron, celecoxib, and acetaminophen. Postoperative nausea is associated with dehydration; therefore, ensure patients are well hydrated preoperatively by avoiding bowel preparations and minimizing the duration of nothing-by-mouth status. Multimodal pain strategies have consistently shown improved perioperative pain control and decreased GI dysfunction.4
Consider in-and-out catheterization rather than placement of an indwelling catheter for anticipated short cases without complex bladder dissection.5 Minimize blood loss and maximally evacuate blood and clots with suction because hemoperitoneum can induce nausea and pain.
Pain from retained gas under the diaphragm can be reduced by bathing the diaphragms with 400 cc of dilute local anesthetic made by mixing 50 mL of 0.5% bupivacaine in 1000 mL normal saline prior to removal of pneumoperitoneum and while still in Trendelenburg. Ensure there is minimal retained intraperitoneal CO2 at the completion of the surgery by asking the anesthesiologists to perform positive pressure ventilations prior to fascial closure. Consider injecting port sites (including the peritoneal and fascial layers) with a mixture of immediate and long-acting local anesthetics. Request that the anesthesia staff administer intraoperative doses of IV ketorolac, acetaminophen, and tramadol (in preference to opioids) and an aggressive perioperative cocktail of antiemetics.
Management in the recovery room
Surgeons should ensure that recovery room staff are well versed in the pathway for patients who are selected for SDD to ensure proactive implementation of analgesic and antiemetic regimens and to fast-track the various tasks and education required for discharge.5
Patients should be started on their home postoperative medication regimen in the recovery room, including an anti-inflammatory such as diclofenac, sublingual tramadol (in preference to an opioid, such as hydrocodone), docusate, and sennosides. IV opioids should be avoided because they can result in somnolence and nausea.
If placed intraoperatively, the Foley catheter should be removed early to allow adequate time to void. Backfilling the bladder prior to removal can hasten the urge to void and help objectively document completeness of evacuation. All patients should be seen by the anesthesiologist and/or surgeon prior to discharge.
For patients who are discharged same day, a follow-up phone call on postoperative day 1 is valuable to ensure that they have continued their successful postoperative transition to the home and to intervene early if there are concerns for patient satisfaction.
Dr. Rossi is an assistant professor in the division of gynecologic oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
1. Fountain CR et al. Promoting same-day discharge for gynecologic oncology patients in minimally invasive hysterectomy. J Minim Invasive Gynecol. 2017 Sep-Oct;24(6):932-9 .
2. Rivard C et al. Factors influencing same-day hospital discharge and risk factors for readmission after robotic surgery in the gynecologic oncology patient population. J Minim Invasive Gynecol. 2015 Feb;22(2):219-26 .
3. Lee SJ et al. The feasibility and safety of same-day discharge after robotic-assisted hysterectomy alone or with other procedures for benign and malignant indications. Gynecol Oncol. 2014 Jun;133(3):552-5 .
4. Elia N et al. Does multimodal analgesia with acetaminophen, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, or selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors and patient-controlled analgesia morphine offer advantages over morphine alone? Meta-analyses of randomized trials. Anesthesiology. 2005 Dec;103(6):1296-304 .
5. Donnez O et al. Low pain score after total laparoscopic hysterectomy and same-day discharge within less than 5 hours: Results of a prospective observational study. J Minim Invasive Gynecol. 2015 Nov-Dec;22(7):1293-9 .