The goal of this study was to identify interventions that anesthesiologists can make to decrease total costs of a postanesthesia care unit (PACU).Methods
Data were collected retrospectively from patients who underwent ambulatory surgery at our tertiary care center.Results
Supplies and medications accounted for only 2% of PACU charges. Personnel costs, which depend on the peak number of patients in the PACU, accounted for almost all PACU costs. If nausea and vomiting could have been eliminated in each patient who suffered this complication, without causing sedation, the total time to discharge for all patients would have been decreased by less than 4.8% (95% confidence interval < 7.3%). Arrival rates to and times to discharge from the PACU followed triangular and log-normal distributions, respectively. Computer simulations, using published times to discharge for drugs with “faster recovery,” such as propofol, showed that the use of these drugs would only decrease PACU costs if operating rooms were consistently scheduled to run later each day. Such earlier discharge also might be beneficial if used at night, but only if the PACU could close after a single patient leaves. However, reasonably achievable decreases in the times to discharge for all patients undergoing general anesthesia are unlikely to substantively decrease PACU costs. In contrast, arranging an operating room schedule to optimize admission rates would greatly affect the number of PACU nurses needed.Conclusions
Anesthesiologists have little control over PACU economics via choice of anesthetic drugs. The major determinant of PACU costs is the distribution of admissions.