In this study, we describe changes in symptom distress and functional status 24 h, 4 days, and 7 days after ambulatory surgery.Adult patients aged 18-64 yr, ASA physical status I-III, were studied. The General Symptom Distress Scale was used to score 11 general symptoms; scores range from 0 (no symptoms present) to 4 (symptoms present, constant, cannot be ignored, and, in a 24-h period, remained distressing for more than half the time). The Functional Status Questionnaire was used to evaluate basic and intermediate activities of daily living. Procedure-specific analyses of covariance were performed using multiple linear regression analyses. These models were used to obtain estimates of change while adjusting for preoperative index values of age, ASA physical status, type of anesthesia, and study site. Models for hernia (n = 41) and laparoscopy (n = 59) procedures used F statistics to test the overall significance of the model. Symptom distress persisted until the 7th postoperative day after ambulatory surgery. Patients experienced decreased functional status during the first 7 postoperative days, especially after hernia repair. Older laparoscopy patients tended to have more symptom distress and decreased functional status than younger patients. Only 22% of patients had returned to full- or part-time work by the 7th postoperative day. We conclude that although major morbidity is uncommon after ambulatory surgery, symptom distress and reduced functional status are common 7 days postoperatively. Implications: Previous studies of patient status after ambulatory surgery have focused on mortality, major morbidity, and unanticipated hospitalization. In this study, we examined clinically significant but less life-threatening patient outcomes. Important problems in ambulatory surgery are posed by complications that occur at home. Careful assessment of discharge criteria is important to avoid these problems in this growing patient population.
(Anesth Analg 1998;86:739-45)