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Eur J Orthop Surg Traumatol. 2013 Aug;23(6):665-9. doi: 10.1007/s00590-012-1053-5. Epub 2012 Jul 22.

Modifiable factors delaying early discharge following primary joint arthroplasty.

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  • 1Outcomes Assessment Unit, Musgrave Park Hospital, Stockman's Lane, Belfast BT9 7JB, Northern Ireland, UK.



Recent NHS reforms have incentivised reduction in length of stay, with the UK department of health expecting health trusts to reduce bed days and ultimately reduce overall costs. The aim of this study was to identify avoidable causes for protracted hospital admission following total hip arthroplasty (THA) or total knee arthroplasty (TKA) within a fast-track unit.


During a 6-month period, 535 consecutive patients underwent primary THA or TKA under the care of a single surgeon. All patients with a post-operative stay of greater than 72 h were identified, and reasons for delayed discharge were determined.


The majority of arthroplasty patients were discharged within 3 days post-operatively. Twenty-one per cent of THA patients and 25 % of TKA patients remained as inpatients for greater than 72 h. For the THA population, this equates to 43 % of bed days used by 21 % of patients, and for the TKA population, 44 % of bed days were used by 25 % of patients. The major factor within both groups for delayed discharge was attributed to inadequate social support.


Delayed discharge can never be totally prevented. This unit aims to develop improvement in social work provision, with a greater focus on pre-admission discharge planning to reduce the number of delayed discharges and ultimately reduce the cost burden of joint replacement surgery. It is not conducive with the ethos of fast-track arthroplasty to only identify social circumstances upon admission.

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