Health insurance payors harbor concerns regarding the cost of bariatric procedures that are chiefly related to early readmissions and reoperations. We have attempted to identify the avoidable causes of readmission.
We retrospectively reviewed the indications for short-term (<90-d) emergency department (ED) visits, readmissions, and reoperations from August 2004 through May 2007 for patients undergoing primary Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) for morbid obesity at a tertiary care teaching hospital. The electronic medical record of the primary hospital was reviewed, as well as the electronic medical records of 9 local hospitals serving the area, allowing the incorporation of data from 35 locoregional hospitals.
A total of 1222 consecutive patients underwent RYGB, 1051 laparoscopically. Of these 1222 patients, 173 had 252 ED visits, readmissions, and/or reoperations; 147 (58%) visits were to the primary institution and 105 (42%) occurred at a local or regional hospital. No age difference was found between the patients who underwent ED visits, hospital readmissions, or reoperations and those who did not (mean age 43 yr for both groups, P > .05). Patients who were seen in the ED, readmitted to the hospital, or underwent reoperation had had a greater body mass index (50 kg/m(2) versus 48 kg/m(2), P = .001). On average, the readmissions occurred 27.3 days (range 2-88) postoperatively, and the mean hospital length of stay for readmitted patients was 3.3 days (range 1-16). Patients who presented for ED visits, readmission, or reoperations were more likely to have undergone open RYGB than laparoscopic RYGB (P = .002). The <90-day all-cause ED visit, readmission, and reoperation rate was 21% (n = 252). Considering all 1222 patients, the incidence of nausea, vomiting, and dehydration, abdominal pain, and wound issues was 5% (n = 65), 4% (n = 50), and 2% (n = 21), respectively. Considering only the 173 patients with ED visits, readmissions, or reoperations (n = 252), the admitting diagnosis was nausea, vomiting, and dehydration in 26%, abdominal pain in 20%, and wound issues in 8%. The unemployed, disabled, or retired were more likely to have been seen in the ED or readmitted compared with the employed, nondisabled, or not retired (P = .01).
A considerable number of patients are affected by nausea, vomiting, and dehydration, abdominal pain, and wound issues <90 days postoperatively. Socioeconomic and functional status might have an effect on the rate of ED visits and readmissions. By ensuring that the appropriate outpatient mechanisms for management of these problems are available, early ED visits and readmission rates should significantly decrease.