• Analgesia;
  • day surgery;
  • pain;
  • postoperative

Background: The quality of pain relief during the first 48 hours following ambulatory surgery has been poorly documented. This questionnaire study was performed to evaluate the nature and severity of pain after the patient leaves the hospital.

Methods: 1100 patients in the age group 5–88 years who underwent ambulatory surgery during a period of 6months were asked to complete a questionnaire 48 h after the end of the operation. In thecase of children, parents were asked to complete a similar questionnaire. The questions were related to pain experienced during the first 48 h after surgery and to the nature andseverity of postoperative complications.

Results: A total of 1035 out of the 1100 patients returned the questionnaire, 94.1%. Overall the majority (65%) of patients had only mild pain at home; however, patients undergoing certain types of surgery had moderate-to-severe pain: inguinal hernia surgery (62% patients), orthopaedic surgery (41%), hand surgery (37%) and varicose vein surgery (36%). In these patients the severity of pain did not decrease during the 2-day study period. About 10% patients had more severe pain than they had anticipated, and 20% had difficulty in sleeping at night due to severe pain. Despite this, over 95% of patients were satisfied with man-agement of postoperative pain. Nausea (20%), tiredness (20%) and vomiting (8%) were the commonest complications reported during the first 48 h. A significant association was found between the administration of a general anaesthetic and the incidence of nausea postoperatively. A large number of patients were alone at home after the operation (28.4%); some (3.8%) had no access to a relative or friend in case of need.

Conclusion: Our results show that about 35% of day-surgery patients experience moderate-to-severe pain at home in spite of analgesic medication. About 20% of patients had sleep problems due to severe pain. However, only 5% of patients were dissatisfied. Better analgesic techniques are necessary for patients undergoing certain types of surgery. Patient information and follow-up routines need to be improved.