Cleft lip and palate is one of the most common congenital anomalies requiring surgical treatment in children, normally commenced in the first year of life. Following the initiation of a group of multicentre surgical trials of primary surgery, variations in postoperative recovery and management became apparent. An agreement was made for a nurse-led survey in eight surgical centres to document postoperative care and recovery.
A postoperative recovery clinical report form was developed to capture relevant data for the children participating in the four arms of the trials. This included the age and weight at admission, the postoperative recovery setting, pain management, postoperative feeding, post-operative complications, and length of hospital stay.
Four hundred and three nursing forms from the first surgical procedure were returned for analysis. Differences in important aspects of care such as postoperative analgesia and postoperative feeding were evident. Postoperative care was influenced by local custom and practice, as little firm clinical evidence exists to guide optimal management.
Postoperative recovery may play a significant role in the future selection of surgical protocols, and future trials need to consider cross-study site training to familiarise nurses, prior to any changes in surgical methods.