Eliminating intensive postoperative care in same-day surgery patients using short-acting anesthetics

Division: Cognigen



A multidisciplinary effort was undertaken to determine whether patients could safely bypass the postanesthesia care unit (PACU) after same-day surgery by moving to an earlier time point evaluation of recovery criteria.


A prospective, outcomes research study with a baseline month, an intervention month, and a follow-up month was designed. Five surgical centers (three community-based hospitals and two freestanding ambulatory surgical centers) were utilized. Two thousand five hundred eight patients were involved in the baseline period, and 2,354 were involved in the follow-up period. Outcome measures included PACU bypass rates and adverse events. Intervention consisted of a multidisciplinary educational program and routine feedback reports.


The overall PACU bypass rate (58%) was significantly different from baseline (15.9%, P < 0.001), for patients to whom a general anesthetic was administered (0.4-31.8%, P < 0.001), and for those given other anesthetic techniques (monitored anesthesia care, regional or local anesthetics; 29.1-84.2%, P < 0.001). During the follow-up period, the average (SD) recovery duration for patients who bypassed the PACU was significantly shorter compared to that for patients who did not bypass, 84.6 (61.5) versus 175.1 (98.8) min, P < 0.001, with no change in patient outcome. Patients receiving only short-acting anesthetics were 78% more likely (P < 0.002) to bypass the PACU after adjusting for various surgical procedures.


This study represents a substantial change in clinical practice in the perioperative setting. Same-day surgical patients given short-acting anesthetic agents and who are awake, alert, and mobile requiring no parenteral pain medications and with no bleeding or nausea at the end of an operative procedure can safely bypass the PACU.

By, Apfelbaum JL, Cynthia Walawander, Thaddeus H Grasela, Wise P, McLeskey C, Roizen MF, Wetchler BV, Korttila K