Among the patients who did develop infections, most had to be admitted to the hospital for treatment. Three of every 1,000 patients who underwent an outpatient procedure developed an infection within 14 days that required hospitalization.
The authors note that much of the research dedicated to healthcare-associated infections has focused on surgeries performed during inpatient stays, and they sought to fill a gap in knowledge about infections from ambulatory settings.
Though the percentages were low, the absolute numbers are substantial given how common ambulatory surgery is in the U.S., the researchers said. They encourage physicians to provide careful instructions to patients for post-surgery care to help continue the positive trend.
“Serious infections following ambulatory surgery do occur, and patients should not assume these types of surgeries are without risks,” explained study author Pamela Owens of the AHRQ.
About 60% of the infections were identified within the first 14 days of the procedure, the report found. “Our findings suggest that earlier access to a clinician or member of the surgical team may help identify and treat these infections early and reduce overall morbidity,” the authors said.
The analysis looked at records of patients who had undergone ambulatory surgeries, for procedures like hernia repair, orthopedic surgery and hysterectomy, in California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, and Tennessee. Data was obtained from the state ambulatory surgery and inpatient databases of the 2010 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.
Infections associated with inpatient surgeries are a costly problem. Research published in the American Journal of Infection Control in 2009 found surgical site infections were associated with patients spending more than 400,000 additional days in U.S. hospitals and costs exceeding $900 million. There were also more than 91,000 readmissions as a result of these infections.