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Int J Qual Health Care. 1999 Feb;11(1):47-57.

Waiting for elective surgery: effects on health-related quality of life.

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Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.



To describe the experiences of people required to wait for admission to a New Zealand regional hospital to receive elective surgery.




Eligible people were invited to participate in a face-to-face interview with one of us in their own home or in a private office at the University of Otago.


The study population comprised all people on the waiting list for prostatectomy or hip or knee joint replacement. Of those who were eligible and contacted, 89% of men (n=102) on the prostatectomy waiting list and 92%. of people (n = 47) on the hip/knee joint replacement waiting list were interviewed. Main outcome measures. Participants completed the SF-36 health survey to measure general health-related quality of life and condition-specific instruments to measure the severity of each participant's condition. Participants were also asked questions concerning acceptable waiting times.


The majority of participants reported severe symptoms and significantly poorer health-related quality of life on most dimensions than a general sample of the New Zealand population. Neither general quality of life nor condition-specific health appeared to worsen with the duration of wait, but this may have been an effect of the study design. People with more severe symptoms desire surgery more quickly than people with less severe symptoms. The lengthy wait for surgery experienced by many participants represents a burden in terms of living with the unrelieved severe symptoms and poor health-related quality of life.

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