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Can J Anaesth. 1999 Apr;46(4):348-51.

Patient flow in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit: an observational study.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesia, SMBD-Jewish General Hospital and McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



Anesthesiologists are constantly striving for improvement in health care delivery. We assessed the patient flow in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) to determine if patients are being transported out of the PACU when ready.


A University student recorded the flow of 336 patients who recovered in our Post Anesthesia Care Unit. The corresponding nursing and orderly complements were recorded. If a delay arose between the time the patient was deemed fit for discharge by the PACU nurse and the time the patient was transported from the PACU, the student determined the duration and cause(s) of the delay.


The number of patients, nurses, and orderlies increased from three to twelve, three to seven, and one to two respectively throughout the elective working day. Seventy-six per cent of patients studied were delayed in transport from the PACU, with 26% of patients waiting 30 min. The average delay in discharge for patients increased during the day from 0 to 65 +/- 54 min from the time of fit for discharge, as determined by the PACU nurse, until transport. Five causes were identified as contributing to the delay: orderly too busy (41%), awaiting Anesthesia assessment (36%), Post Anesthesia Care Unit nurse too busy (15%), receiving floor not ready (6%), and patient awaiting radiographic interpretation (2%).


Our study has shown that system errors unnecessarily prolongs the stay of patients in the PACU.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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