Orthopedics

Feature Article 

Day of Surgery Affects Length of Hospitalization for Patients Undergoing Total Joint Arthroplasty Discharged to Extended Care Facilities

Ryan Lilly, MD; Matthew Siljander, MD; James Verner, MD; Denise M. Koueiter, MS

Abstract

Although the average hospital length of stay (LOS) after total joint arthroplasty (TJA) has decreased during the past 10 years, it continues to play a significant role in postoperative costs. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of surgical day of the week on hospital LOS among TJA patients discharged to an extended care facility (ECF). A TJA database from a single hospital was used to identify all patients who underwent primary total knee arthroplasty (TKA) and total hip arthroplasty (THA) between January 2013 and December 2016. Inclusion criteria were age older than 50 years, surgery Monday through Friday, and discharge to an ECF. A total of 2184 patients met inclusion criteria. Patients were divided into groups based on surgical day of the week. There was no statistically significant difference in age (P=.120), sex (P=.959), or procedure (TKA vs THA, P=.395) between groups based on surgery day. The LOS varied significantly by the day of the week (P<.001). Thursday varied significantly from every other day of the week (P<.001), with the greatest LOS (mean, 3.56±0.84 days) and the highest percentage of patients discharged (27.8%) compared with all other days. Tuesday had the shortest LOS (mean, 3.25±0.70 days) and differed significantly from Thursday and Friday (P<.05). Patients discharged to an ECF after primary TKA and THA have an increased mean hospital LOS when their surgery falls on a Thursday. The authors recommend preferentially scheduling patients with planned postoperative discharge to an ECF for surgery on Tuesday and avoiding surgery on Thursday. [Orthopedics. 2018; 41(2):82–86.]

Abstract

Although the average hospital length of stay (LOS) after total joint arthroplasty (TJA) has decreased during the past 10 years, it continues to play a significant role in postoperative costs. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of surgical day of the week on hospital LOS among TJA patients discharged to an extended care facility (ECF). A TJA database from a single hospital was used to identify all patients who underwent primary total knee arthroplasty (TKA) and total hip arthroplasty (THA) between January 2013 and December 2016. Inclusion criteria were age older than 50 years, surgery Monday through Friday, and discharge to an ECF. A total of 2184 patients met inclusion criteria. Patients were divided into groups based on surgical day of the week. There was no statistically significant difference in age (P=.120), sex (P=.959), or procedure (TKA vs THA, P=.395) between groups based on surgery day. The LOS varied significantly by the day of the week (P<.001). Thursday varied significantly from every other day of the week (P<.001), with the greatest LOS (mean, 3.56±0.84 days) and the highest percentage of patients discharged (27.8%) compared with all other days. Tuesday had the shortest LOS (mean, 3.25±0.70 days) and differed significantly from Thursday and Friday (P<.05). Patients discharged to an ECF after primary TKA and THA have an increased mean hospital LOS when their surgery falls on a Thursday. The authors recommend preferentially scheduling patients with planned postoperative discharge to an ECF for surgery on Tuesday and avoiding surgery on Thursday. [Orthopedics. 2018; 41(2):82–86.]

Primary total joint arthroplasty (TJA) of the hip and of the knee are common and effective procedures for improving pain and function in patients with arthritis. Recent literature estimates that more than 7 million Americans are currently living with a TJA.1 National registries estimate that more than 1 million total knee and total hip replacements are performed annually in the United States.1 As the baby boomers continue to age, the demand for TJA is expected to continue to increase. Kurtz et al2 predict that by 2030 there will be 572,000 total hip arthroplasties (THAs) and 3.48 million total knee arthroplasties (TKAs) performed annually in the United States alone.

In recent years, there has been a shift toward outpatient surgery and postoperative day 1 discharges. However, because of advanced age, lack of family support, or medical conditions, patients still require additional postoperative care at an extended care facility (ECF). At the authors' institution, approximately 18% of TJA patients require discharge to an ECF. Discharge to an ECF requires a significant amount of planning and communication between physicians, care managers, physical therapists, insurance companies, and facility staff. Medicare and many insurance providers require 3 nights of hospitalization prior to discharge to an ECF for postoperative patients.3 In the current authors' experience, patients will frequently have met physical therapy milestones and are stable for discharge but have delays due to non-medical issues, including insurance authorization and facility acceptance policies (eg, not accepting new patients on the weekend or on Sunday). These delays increase health care costs, decrease patient satisfaction, and prolong patient exposure to hospital-acquired diseases.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether surgical day of the week impacts the hospital length of stay (LOS) for TKA and THA, for patients discharged to an ECF, within a single, high-volume hospital. The authors hypothesized that patients who have surgery on Wednesday or Thursday, and therefore anticipated discharge days of Saturday or Sunday, are more likely to have delays in discharge.

Materials and Methods

After institutional review board approval was obtained, a TJA database from a single hospital was used to identify all patients who underwent elective primary TKA and primary THA between January 2013 and December 2016. Only patients who were discharged to an ECF and had surgery Monday through Friday were included in this study. Patients were excluded if they were younger than 50 years, had a revision procedure, had an emergent case, had a simultaneous bilateral procedure, or were discharged home or to inpatient rehabilitation. Additionally, patients discharged after postoperative day 7 were excluded to reduce outliers secondary to extended stay for medical complications. A total of 2184 patients met inclusion criteria and were divided into 5 groups based on the day of the week of surgery. Groups were compared based on demographic factors to rule out any confounders and based on hospital LOS.

Statistical Analysis

A one-way analysis of variance test was used to assess differences in normal, continuous variables based on the day of surgery. A Kruskal–Wallis test was used to assess differences in nonparametric variables across days of the week, with a Dunn–Bonferroni test used for pairwise comparisons. A chi-square test was used to analyze differences in categorical variables. Additionally, a two-way analysis of variance was used to assess whether there was a significant difference in LOS based on the interaction between surgical day and procedure type (TKA vs THA). P<.05 was considered significant for all tests.

Results

In the population of 2184 patients, there was no statistically significant difference in age (P=.120), sex (P=.959), body mass index (P=.472), American Society of Anesthesiologists score (P=.256), or procedure (TKA vs THA, P=.395) between the groups based on the day of the week of surgery (Table 1). The LOS varied significantly by day of the week (P<.001; Figure). Thursday had the longest LOS (mean, 3.56±0.84 days) and varied significantly from every other day of the week (P<.001). Tuesday had the shortest LOS (mean, 3.25±0.70 days) and differed significantly from Thursday and Friday (P<.05).

Patient Demographics Stratified by Day of the Week

Table 1:

Patient Demographics Stratified by Day of the Week

Mean length of stay based on surgical day of the week for patients being discharged to an extended care facility. Error bars represent the 95% confidence interval. Thursday varied significantly from every other day of the week (*), and Tuesday varied significantly from Thursday and Friday (+).

Figure:

Mean length of stay based on surgical day of the week for patients being discharged to an extended care facility. Error bars represent the 95% confidence interval. Thursday varied significantly from every other day of the week (*), and Tuesday varied significantly from Thursday and Friday (+).

Patients who had surgery on Thursday had the lowest percentage of discharges on postoperative day (POD) 3 (59.1%) and the highest percentage of discharges on POD 4 (27.8%), compared with all other days (Table 2). Patients who had surgery on Tuesday had the highest percentage of discharges on POD 3 (83.2%). Furthermore, of all patients in the cohort who were discharged on POD 4, the greatest percentage had surgery on Thursday (38.0%). There was no significant difference in LOS based on the interaction between procedure day of the week and procedure type (TKA vs THA) (P=.141).

Percentage of Discharges on Postoperative Days 1 Through 7 Based on Day of Surgery and Procedure

Table 2:

Percentage of Discharges on Postoperative Days 1 Through 7 Based on Day of Surgery and Procedure

Discussion

Many factors potentially affecting LOS have been evaluated and addressed, but only recently has hospital LOS secondary to surgical day of the week been discussed.4–8 To the current authors' knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate LOS following TKA and THA in patients discharged to an ECF based on the day of the week of surgery and to include Monday through Friday. The authors found that patients who had surgery on Thursday had a greater LOS than patients who had surgery on any other day of the week. This correlates with an anticipated discharge day of Sunday.

A study by Muppavarapu et al5 examined LOS based on day of surgery among 547 patients after TKA and THA, regardless of discharge disposition. They found that patients had a shorter LOS if surgery was performed on Monday or Tuesday when compared with Thursday or Friday. Contrary to the current authors' findings, they did not find a statistically significant difference in LOS based on the day of surgery when examining only the patients who were discharged to an ECF; however, their sample was smaller and their study may not have been powered to detect a difference.

In 2016, Keswani et al6 examined whether surgery in the beginning vs the end of the week impacted hospital LOS for 580 THA patients of a single surgeon. They grouped patients who had surgery Monday or Tuesday vs Thursday or Friday, finding that patients with surgery later in the week had a significantly longer length of hospitalization. They also found that procedures beginning later than 2:00 pm had increased LOS. Newman et al4 similarly grouped patients and found that the Monday/Tuesday group had shorter hospitalizations prior to discharge in a large study.

Although hospital LOS following primary TJA is decreasing,9 it continues to be one of the strongest factors associated with total cost.10,11 Improvements in postoperative pain management, early mobilization, fast-track rehabilitation, and improved preoperative patient education and clinical pathways have all contributed to a decrease in LOS.12–15 In the current authors' experience, discharge to an ECF, as compared with discharge to home, can increase hospital LOS. Comorbidities, American Society of Anesthesiologists class, insurance type, age, and female sex have all been evaluated as predictors for ECF discharge and increased hospital LOS.16–18 Screening guidelines to predict patients requiring postoperative ECF stays have been proposed but are not routinely used.19,20 Given the results of this study and other similar studies, hospital LOS and total cost could potentially be reduced by being better able to predict those patients requiring ECF and scheduling the surgical day of the week accordingly. When discharge to an ECF is known in advance, preferentially scheduling those patients early in the week is an easy modification that could save considerable money.

Multiple factors likely contribute to the correlation between day of surgery and length of hospitalization prior to discharge to an ECF. Principally, nonmedical reasons such as facilities' restrictions on weekend acceptance of new patients, decreased weekend insurance approval because fewer employees are working, and fewer on-site care managers facilitating the discharge can all lead to prolonged hospitalization for patients with anticipated weekend discharges. Also, many hospitals function with a limited physical therapy team on the weekend, which can delay patients' progress and discharge.

This study is unique in that the authors included only patients discharged to an ECF and evaluated surgeries performed on each weekday (Monday through Friday) individually. Strengths of this study included a relatively larger patient population compared with previous studies, without the confounding effect of home vs ECF discharges.

However, this study is not without limitations. The authors used a retrospective chart review, which is an inherently weaker design than a prospective, randomized study with multivariate analysis. However, surgical day randomization among several private practice surgeons for 2184 patients would not have been feasible. Additionally, this study was conducted at a single hospital, with inherent regional or institutional biases. A third limitation is that the cohort included both THA and TKA patients, which could be a potential confounding factor; however, the authors did not find statistically significant differences in LOS between the THA and TKA patients. Furthermore, surgical approach was not evaluated in this study and is a potential confounding factor if not equally distributed among the specific days of the week. Finally, a multivariate analysis of patient comorbidities was not conducted.

Conclusion

Patients discharged to an ECF after primary TKA and THA have an increased mean hospital LOS when their surgery falls on a Thursday. This correlates with their anticipated discharge date on a weekend. The authors recommend preferentially scheduling patients with planned postoperative discharge to an ECF for surgery on Tuesday and avoiding surgery on Thursday.

References

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Patient Demographics Stratified by Day of the Week

CharacteristicDay of the WeekP

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
No.315525457489398
Age, mean±SD, y72.9±8.571.7±8.472.7±8.772.9±8.972.9±9.3.120
Sex, No..959
  Female237 (75%)400 (76%)354 (77%)377 (77%)305 (77%)
  Male78 (25%)125 (24%)103 (23%)112 (23%)93 (23%)
Body mass index, mean±SD, kg/m230.77±6.6330.87±6.4831.14±6.5831.54±7.1931.20±6.83.472
American Society of Anesthesiologists score, mean±SD2.5±0.52.5±0.52.5±0.62.6±0.72.6±0.5.256
Procedure, No..395
  Total hip arthroplasty120 (38%)203 (39%)180 (39%)177 (36%)170 (43%)
  Total knee arthroplasty195 (62%)322 (61%)277 (61%)312 (64%)228 (57%)

Percentage of Discharges on Postoperative Days 1 Through 7 Based on Day of Surgery and Procedure

Discharge Day/ProcedureDay of Surgery

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
POD 1
  Hip0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%
  Knee0.0%0.3%0.0%0.0%0.0%
  Total0.0%0.2%0.0%0.0%0.0%
POD 2
  Hip1.7%0.5%1.1%0.0%0.0%
  Knee1.0%0.3%0.7%1.3%0.0%
  Total1.3%0.4%0.9%0.8%0.0%
POD 3
  Hip76.7%85.7%78.3%57.1%72.4%
  Knee77.9%81.7%75.5%60.3%74.6%
  Total77.5%83.2%76.6%59.1%73.6%
POD 4
  Hip15.8%9.9%8.9%27.1%20.0%
  Knee16.4%11.2%7.6%28.2%19.3%
  Total16.2%10.7%8.1%27.8%19.6%
POD 5
  Hip4.2%2.0%7.2%10.7%4.7%
  Knee1.5%1.9%10.5%7.7%3.5%
  Total2.5%1.9%9.2%8.8%4.0%
POD 6
  Hip0.8%2.0%1.7%4.0%2.9%
  Knee0.5%4.0%3.6%1.9%1.8%
  Total0.6%3.2%2.8%2.7%2.3%
POD 7
  Hip0.8%0.0%2.8%1.1%0.0%
  Knee2.6%0.6%2.2%0.6%0.9%
  Total1.9%0.4%2.4%0.8%0.5%
Authors

The authors are from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Beaumont Health System, Royal Oak, Michigan.

The authors have no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Matthew Siljander, MD, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Beaumont Health System, 3535 W 13 Mile Rd, Ste 744, Royal Oak, MI 48073 ( msiljander@gmail.com).

Received: July 26, 2017
Accepted: January 10, 2018
Posted Online: March 02, 2018

10.3928/01477447-20180226-01

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