"To date, there has been no analogous study in the surgical literature describing enhanced discharge processes to prevent surgical readmissions," wrote lead author Linda Li, research fellow at the Houston VA Health Services Research Center of Excellence.
Li and colleagues published their report in the February issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
Currently, "indicators of deteriorating condition provided to patients at the time of discharge are based on conventional wisdom, are highly subjective, and lack a systematic implementation methodology," she and coauthors added. "Further, these indicators are often overly generic, with the same indicators provided to medical and postsurgical patients."
Li and colleagues convened an 11-expert panel to amass "collective intelligence" about what possible postsurgical events should cause concern.
Over the course of months, they came up with 37 unique warning symptoms, such as wound disruption, wound drainage, or redness indicating possible surgical site infection, fever or temperature greater than 101.5, or intestinal obstruction, or lack of gas or stool for more than 24 hours. That list was further refined to a set of 12 that most of the panelists could agree on.